How To Diagnose Alzheimers Vs Dementia
Alzheimers is a progressive and fatal brain disorder. Dementia is not a specific disease, but an umbrella term that defines a syndrome and used to refer to a specific group of symptoms related to a decline in mental ability. Alzheimers is one of the most common causes of dementia. Both Alzheimers and dementia are diagnosed using a variety of different assessments and tests, including a physical exam, lab tests, cognitive and neuropsychological tests, and an analysis of changes in behavior.
Mood Or Personality Changes
Someone with Alzheimers disease may start to experience a low mood. They may feel irritable, confused, anxious, or depressed. They may also lose interest in things they used to enjoy.
They may become frustrated with their symptoms or feel unable to understand the changes taking place. This may present as aggression or irritability toward others.
Supporting Someone With Young Onset Dementia
If you have little or no previous experience of dementia, the Alzheimers Societys Dementia Friends programme is a great place to start. Designed to transform peoples often misguided perception of dementia, it provides some valuable insights that can help inform the way we all think, and more importantly, act to support those affected by the condition. Find out more about Dementia Friends and how to get involved here.
In the early stages of dementia, many people are able to continue to live their lives in much the same way as before their diagnosis, but there are some aspects of being diagnosed with early onset dementia that someone is likely to need extra help with:
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Addressing Early Onset Alzheimers Symptoms
Fortunately, there are ways to begin treating some of the symptoms of early onset Alzheimers once its been identified, and there are ways of coping with the disease.
Family members may often have to advocate for their loved one if theyre experiencing these symptoms at a young age. Thats because primary care doctors, Ellison said, often do not have the specialized training to understand early symptoms of dementia and they typically have less and less time to spend with their patients.
Its critically important for families to persist, he said, because other treatable diseases may be causing dementia-like symptoms. Untreated attention disorder deficit, Ellison said, can often look like early dementia. In other cases,;gastrointestinal issues cause dementia-like symptoms or multiple medications may be causing a negative reaction.
The first step is to check in with your doctor and ask for a memory or cognition test. Once you or your loved one has been assessed, your primary care doctor should refer you to a dementia specialist to run further tests and ultimately arrive at a diagnosis.
Being able to diagnose the disease early on can help your doctor tailor a treatment plan that may help slow the progression of the disease.
One critical reason to address early signs of dementia is the fact that Ellison and other experts say changes in lifestylediet, exercise and other stepscan help delay onset of full dementia.
Early Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia In Men
Written byDevon AndrePublished onApril 12, 2017
Dementia is a term used to describe significant cognitive impairment. These impairments are often seen in two or more critical brain functions such as memory, language, judgment, and reasoning. Deficiencies in these aspects of cognitive ability can significantly affect a persons daily functioning, making them require constant aid.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimers disease, but there exist multiple forms of dementia that exhibit a varying degree of symptoms and presentations to help differentiate them from each other. Some of these other forms of dementia include vascular dementia, which may be the result of stroke and vasculitis, and frontal lobe dementia, which is relatively rare and thought to be inherited.
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When To See A Doctor
Forgetfulness may be a normal part of aging and is not always caused by a neurodegenerative brain disease such as Alzheimers. If you happen to suspect someone you know is suffering from early onset dementia symptoms and doesnt show any signs of improving, it may be a good idea to have them speak to a doctor to get neurological testing.
Often, a neurologist is required to assess dementia through a physical exam and ordering various tests to determine mental health. There are many things a neurologist can do in the office that can be a good indicator to whether the patient truly is suffering from dementia or not.
Typically, dementia affects persons of advanced age, usually over the age of 65, but it is possible for individuals to be affected as early as their 30s, 40s, or 50s. Earlier age of onset may have additional factors playing a role in the accelerated and early presentation of those individuals, such as genetics. While dementia, in general, may be difficult to treat, early recognition and diagnosis may aid in slowing the progression of the disease, allowing the ability to take the steps to prevent further mental deterioration.
Stage 5: Moderate Dementia
Patients in stage 5 need some assistance in order to carry out their daily lives. The main sign for stage 5 dementia is the inability to remember major details such as the name of a close family member or a home address. Patients may become disoriented about the time and place, have trouble making decisions, and forget basic information about themselves, such as a telephone number or address.
While moderate dementia can interfere with basic functioning, patients at this stage do not need assistance with basic functions such as using the bathroom or eating. Patients also still have the ability to remember their own names and generally the names of spouses and children.
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Who Is This Dementia Quiz For
Below is a list of 10 questions designed for people who are concerned about memory loss. The questions relate to life experiences common among people who have been diagnosed with dementia, a neurocognitive disorder, and are based on criteria in the DSM-5 .
Please read each question carefully, and indicate how often you have experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few months.
Getting An Accurate Diagnosis
â with young onset is that dementia is not something that they think about initially. If youâre a woman, the first thing they think about is menopause and depression and anxiety and panic and sleep disorders and all those kinds of things.â â Faye, from Windsor Junction, Nova Scotia. Faye lives with young onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Diagnosing dementia can be a long and complicated process. For younger people, itâs even more complicated and frustrating. Healthcare providers are often reluctant to diagnose dementia in someone so young, and itâs common for a person who has young onset dementia to be misdiagnosed with another condition, such as depression.
As a a result, the person living with young onset dementia may not get the appropriate knowledge, treatment and support to fight the disease.
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Problems Writing Or Speaking
The person may also have difficulty with words and communication. They may find it hard to follow or contribute to a conversation, or they may repeat themselves. They may also have difficulty writing down their thoughts.
The person may stop in the middle of a conversation, unable to figure out what to say next. They may also struggle to find the right word or label things incorrectly.
It is not uncommon for people to occasionally struggle to find the right word. Typically, they eventually remember it and do not experience the problem frequently.
Difficulties In Thinking Things Through And Planning
A person may get confused more easily and find it harder to plan, make complex decisions or solve problems.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Early
For most people with early-onset Alzheimer disease, the symptoms closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer disease.
Withdrawal from work and social situations
Changes in mood and personality
Severe mood swings and behavior changes
Deepening confusion about time, place, and life events
Suspicions about friends, family, or caregivers
Trouble;speaking, swallowing, or walking
Severe memory loss
You Get Lost More Often
Losing navigational skills, and the ability to create a mental map of your environment, can be one of the early signs of dementia. In fact, in 2019, University of Cambridge researchers developed a virtual-reality navigation test that has proven to be better at identifying early Alzheimers disease than FDA-approved neuropsychological tests currently considered to be a gold standard for early diagnosis.
We built a running track in our backyard so Steve could jog safely every day without getting lost, says Eva.
Once Chow was properly diagnosed, his anxiety about his symptoms decreased and he became calmer. Eva is the model caregiver because she wants to do whats best for Stephen and encourages him to do things, says Tartaglia. This has included joining Alzheimer Society of Toronto programs and support groups for people with early-onset dementia, practising daily meditation and getting regular aerobic exercise.
But perhaps most importantly, with Evas encouragement, Chow began to share his dementia diagnosis with the people in his life. I felt better after I told my family and friends, he says. They were very supportive, and it took a load off my shoulders. I learned that you should tell people what youre noticing sooner rather than later and not keep it to yourself.
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Getting Connected To Services After Diagnosis
â said, âOh, this is great, we have a diagnosis, what do we do now? Is there a pill, orâ¦?â And this is when the doctor said: âNo, thereâs no pill, thereâs nothing that we can do at all,â and youâll have to basically âgo home, get your affairs in order because you will die from this.ââ â from Ontario. Mary Beth lives with young onset frontotemporal dementia.
Even after an accurate diagnosis is made, a younger person with dementia is still likely to face obstacles. These obstacles may start with being unable to get more information about dementia or find referral to dementia-focused programs and services in their community.
We know that many people living with dementia go on to live very fulfilling lives for quite some time. Unfortunately, due to lack of knowledge and training, some healthcare providers still seem to offer little hope or support for life after diagnosis.
However, even if their doctor is helpful and can suggest practical next steps, there is another significant obstacle for the person diagnosed with young onset dementia to overcome.
Diagnosis Of Early Onset Alzheimer Disease
“The neurologist diagnosed conversion disorder;. I should not have believed that. We went to counseling sessions for a year but nothing happened.”Caregiver.
Families with eFAD tell stories of being misdiagnosed because their doctors had ruled out the possibility of AD in people who are so young , or simply did not consider it seriously. “My brother’s first symptoms were personality changes, weight gain, loss of physical coordination, and then short-term memory loss. We thought those signs would be enough for him to be diagnosed correctly given that his mother and uncle also had had early onset AD. But still it took nearly two years of neurological assessments before the doctors would give my brother his diagnosis,” an unaffected sibling said. Ironically, AD specialists say that provided the doctor is attuned to AD occurring in younger people, diagnosing eFAD can actually be easier than diagnosing LOAD. Elderly patients are more likely to have other medical conditions that can cause dementia, making diagnosis trickier. For example, cardiovascular disease and diabetes are very common in older people, and can cause symptoms that overlap with AD. In younger patients, this is less likely to be the case. A main challenge in diagnosing eFAD is to distinguish it from other types of dementia that begin in middle age, for example, frontotemporal dementias such as Pick disease.
Examining for the presence of AD symptoms;Ruling out other possible causes of dementia
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Differences In Signs Of Dementia In Men And Women
While it is true that the majority of dementia symptoms and signs are seen in both sexes, according to research, some differences can be appreciated between the two. They involve the rate and degree to which certain symptoms develop. The following are such symptoms:
Verbal skills: Men were seen to retain verbal fluency longer than women. This is the ability to correctly perform naming tasks, and the ability to successfully perform delayed recall of words.
Subjective memory complaints: Women were seen to experience memory impairment earlier in the course of dementia than men.
Depressive symptoms: Men with depressive symptoms were found to have a significantly higher risk of developing dementia, particularly Alzheimers disease, compared to women with depressive symptoms.
Rate of symptom progression: A study found that once the initial symptoms of dementia appear in men and women, they tend to progress at a faster rate in women than men. The reasoning for this correlation is not well understood but is suspected to be genetic or environmental in origin.
How Does A Doctor Test For Dementia
There is no single diagnostic test for Alzheimers disease and other causes of dementia. Dementias are diagnosed by evaluating and understanding a persons memory and thinking patterns. Doctors will consider a persons memory, grasp of language, mood states, problem-solving skills, ability to maintain focus and perform complex tasks. Evaluation may include in-office cognitive screening , physical examination, and review of labs. Labwork helps to determine whether there are vitamin deficiencies or hormonal changes at play. In some cases, evaluation may require neuropsychological testing, brain imaging , and genetic testing.
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Current Practice In Diagnosing Dementia
The remainder of this information will provide an overview of the diagnosis process and a guide to what happens after diagnosis.;
It is important to remember that there is no definitive test for diagnosing Alzheimers disease or any of the other common causes of dementia. Findings from a variety of sources and tests must be pooled before a diagnosis can be made, and the process can be complex and time consuming. Even then, uncertainty may still remain, and the diagnosis is often conveyed as possible or probable. Despite this uncertainty, a diagnosis is accurate around 90% of the time.;
People with significant memory loss without other symptoms of dementia, such as behaviour or personality changes, may be classified as having a Mild Cognitive Impairment . MCI is a relatively new concept and more research is needed to understand the relation between MCI and later development of dementia. However, MCI does not necessarily lead to dementia and regular monitoring of memory and thinking skills is recommended in individuals with this diagnosis.;;
Symptoms Appear Before Age 60
Perhaps the biggest defining sign of early onset Alzheimers is the timing of the symptoms first appearing. The most common form of Alzheimers, late onset Alzheimers, typically begins showing signs when a person is in their 60s.
Early onset Alzheimers, meanwhile, can start taking effect as early as your 30s and 40s. Typically, patients are diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers in their 40s or 50s.
Dr. James Ellison of the Swank Memory Care Center at Christiana Care Health System in Delaware writes that the majority of early onset Alzheimers disease does not run in families. Some families, however, do have a genetic mutation that almost guarantees development of early onset Alzheimers.
In an interview, Dr. Ellison said that people in their 40s and 50s should not be experiencing the so-called 10 warning symptoms of Alzheimers. If they are, they may have the early onset version of the disease.
In your 40s and 50s you should not be experiencing these symptoms, Ellison said. If you know something is wrong, keep looking for doctors or others who have the knowledge to treat you.
Can Dementia Suddenly Get Worse
The progression of dementia depends on the underlying disease. Some diseases have a rapid progression. Others progress more slowly. Any sudden change with either slow or rapid progression should be evaluated for another cause. In most cases, changes with dementia may seem like they came out of the blue when they actually may have been slowly developing in the background. The best way to prepare for changes and manage expectations is through information. Your doctor and medical team will be a valuable resource. There are a variety of educational resources that are also available through the Alzheimer’s Association.
Promoting Early Diagnosis Of Dementia
The early symptoms of dementia can include memory problems, difficulties in word finding and thinking processes, changes in personality or behaviour, a lack of initiative or changes in day to day function at home, at work or in taking care of oneself. This information does not include details about all of these warning signs, so it is recommended that you seek other sources of information. If you notice signs in yourself or in a family member or friend, it is important to seek medical help to determine the cause and significance of these symptoms.;
Obtaining a diagnosis of dementia can be a difficult, lengthy and intensive process. While circumstances differ from person to person, Dementia Australia believes that everyone has the right to:
- A thorough and prompt assessment by medical professionals,;
- Sensitive communication of a diagnosis with appropriate explanation of symptoms and prognosis,;
- Sufficient information to make choices about the future,
- Maximal involvement in the decision making process,;
- Ongoing maintenance and management, and;
- Access to support and services.;;
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