Study: Dementia Symptoms Can Show Up Years Before Official Diagnosis

The warning symptoms had been present for years, says Michele Greenfield as she considers her mother Joan’s deterioration towards dementia: Her mother took out some dental floss and started flossing at the table during an awards dinner. forgetting about long-time family friends till her kids brought them up. She had long loved to cook, but now she had stopped. But it took a while for the family to arrange for Joan to see a doctor so they could acquire a diagnosis.

She refused to participate in any testing, according to Greenfield, and when she did, and the doctor hinted that she might have dementia, she became enraged with him. She had adored and visited this doctor for years, but suddenly she was upset with him.

The family’s experience with Greenfield’s mother is typical in that it frequently takes years to receive a dementia diagnosis. In fact, according to recent study from the United Kingdom, dementia symptoms can manifest up to 9 years before the condition is officially diagnosed.

Researchers compared cognitive and functional tests in people who later acquired a form of dementia with those who did not using information from the UK Biobank. Researchers use the Biobank, a database of medical and genetic information from half a million volunteers, to help prevent, identify, and cure a variety of diseases.

According to main author Timothy Rittman, PhD, a senior clinical research fellow in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge, “We wanted to investigate how early we could pick up some of the indications of the disorders.”

We hypothesised that subtle indicators manifest themselves before they are actually observed.

The study examined the daily activities of 500,000 persons between the ages of 45 and 69.

Rittman notes, “We wanted to look for the substantial differences between the groups. “Once we located them, we wanted to know if these symptoms had always been present and if they were getting worse. They grew worse as the diagnosis drew nearer.

This supports Greenfield’s prior knowledge. Other symptoms started to show as her mother’s illness got worse.

She would engage in inappropriate behaviour, such as talking to the television or plunging her spoon right into an ice cream carton, according to Greenfield. We had to work to have her licence suspended after she caused a few collisions while driving.

While early signs of dementia can be easily explained away or denied away by individuals themselves, symptoms do become increasingly visible as the disease develops. However, early intervention may benefit by recognising potential warning signals and responding to them.

What to Look Out For

The Duke-UNC Alzheimer’s Disease Collaborative head and associate professor of sleep medicine, memory, and cognitive disorders Heidi Roth, MD, notes that many people wait until they are significantly impaired before getting a dementia diagnosis.

She speculates that this might represent a collapse in their capacity to function. “They have trouble managing their cash, go shopping, frequently forget appointments, and show clear evidence of it.”

According to Roth, the U.K. research showing a full 9 years between the onset of early symptoms and diagnosis makes sense for a number of reasons.

Early on, there might be small alterations, but she predicts that they won’t react. Or, because it can be a major adjustment for everyone, family members might not want to recognise that their loved one is displaying indications of impairment.

Additionally, everyone has slight cognitive losses as they age, such as forgetting why you entered a place, for example. or occasionally forgetting an appointment. We might worry about these situations even in our 30s and 40s. However, Roth advises paying attention when the actions “become more constant, or when people start to comment on your ‘small misses’.”

Rittman advises visiting a doctor for a checkup if you or a family member is concerned about any small changes.

He claims that they can test for reasoning, fluid intellect, memory, and thinking. “Dementia has a number of general symptoms that will manifest.”

First, screening can ascertain whether you are developing dementia or if your symptoms are due to other conditions. The use of many medications to treat the same ailment, or polypharmacy, can be problematic in some situations, particularly with senior individuals. Some of the symptoms may go away just by taking one or more medicines out of the equation. Early detection and treatment of sadness and anxiety might occasionally minimise the symptoms of dementia.

The benefit of early screening is that, if dementia is actually the diagnosis, a patient may be able to make certain lifestyle adjustments that may be beneficial.

The treatments are improving, he argues, but we also need to think more imaginatively about the diseases’ underlying mechanisms in order to potentially combine medications to combat them. “I’m hoping that this trial will raise awareness of the need to seek for symptoms as soon as they emerge.”

Following her mother’s experience, Greenfield urges others to take immediate action when they fear a loved one may be suffering from dementia.

Don’t procrastinate until it becomes risky, she advises. Planning for the inevitable is beneficial, especially if a person lives alone.

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