As featured on the BBC Series “Holding Back The Years”
The word dementia describes a group of symptoms which include: memory loss, mood changes, confusion and difficulty with day-to-day tasks. in dementia the brain cells stop working properly. This can affect the way you think, remember and communicate. Alzheimers disease is the most common cause of dementia. It affects over half a million people in the UK. Dementia is often progressive. This means the symptoms gradually get worse over time. How quickly this progression occurs varies greatly from person to person.
A memory clinic assessment can help diagnose the problem. The signs and symptoms of dementia can sometimes be subtle and develop gradually. This can depend on the type of dementia too. Early detection of memory difficulties can give a patient a treatment advantage. The medications available in the UK today for treatment of conditions like dementia have been shown to slow the progression of symptoms. There is also substantial ongoing worldwide research looking into a potential cure for dementia.
Why Get an Early Diagnosis of dementia?
There are lots of benefits to an early dementia diagnosis at a memory clinic. Potentially a patient can be started on treatment sooner. Also an assessment can rule out other causes of the memory problems like depression and anxiety, infections, vitamin deficiencies, rare brain tumours, side-effects to medications. A memory clinic can help look for these by arranging basic investigations like blood tests. A brain scan (CT or MRI head scan) is also sometimes arranged.
The early signs of dementia can sometimes be subtle so an assessment can help provide reassurance and an explanation for symptoms. An early diagnosis enables patients to have access to the right services as soon as possible. They can also get the appropriate support they require and hence plan for future care. See full benefits of an early dementia diagnosis below (from the NHS website):
Below are examples of how memory problems might present:
– misplacing personal or household items
-forgetting appointments or important dates
-leaving water taps running
-leaving the front door open or unlocked
-going upstairs only to forget what for
-returning from the shop having forgotten various items
-Losing the thread of a conversation
-Forgetting people’s names
-Forgetting to take medication or taking it twice
The Dementia Challenge UK
There is a strong push by the government to increase dementia awareness. This includes developing research to potentially look for a cure for dementia. Another aim is earlier diagnosis and treatment for patients including finding the appropriate care. Memory clinics throughout the UK are trying hard to improve dementia diagnosis however the average waiting time until assessment can still be around 3 months. The average waiting time for treatment can be even longer – around 3 months! See below for more information:
Current Advances in Dementia Research
There is continuing research into dementia treatment in particular but also identifying the causes of dementia and the risk factors associated with dementia especially Alzheimer’s dementia. Please see below for information about the latest advances! This includes a study showing how an eye exam might pick up early stages of dementia and how low vitamin D levels could place a person twice at risk of developing the illness!