Phil Thompson discusses his fears of dementia
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Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk about the condition in depth is Dr Bal Athwal, who is the consultant neurologist at The Wellington Hospital – part of HCA Healthcare UK. “It’s normal to experience forgetfulness and memory issues from time to time,” the doctor reassured – especially if three measures apply:
- You’re stressed
- You’re tired
- You’re on certain medication.
However, if memory loss begins to affect daily life, it’s worth speaking to your local GP.
One of the “early” indicators of brain decline, when it comes to memory loss, is difficulty remembering things that recently took place.
“It is important to remember that sometimes the affected person may not realise they are showing signs of impaired memory,” Dr Athwal added.
Memory lapses may instead be noticed by people close to them or work colleagues.
“Symptoms at first are mild and go unnoticed but get progressively worse as time goes on,” said Dr Athwal.
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During the early stages, symptoms are referred to as “mild cognitive impairment”.
People diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment may, or may not, go on to receive a dementia diagnosis.
Other early signs of dementia include difficulty in carrying out daily tasks.
Dr Athwal presented some examples, such as:
- Difficulty writing a shopping list
- Struggling to split the bill.
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Mood or personality changes can also be an early warning sign of dementia.
These “unusual or extreme” mood swings must be abnormal for the person experiencing them in order for it to be a possible sign of dementia.
Dementia symptoms may also include:
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks
- Periods of mental confusion regarding time and location
- Conservational difficulties, such as struggling to find the right word.
There are a myriad of diseases that fall under the dementia umbrella, including Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.
“Symptoms specific to Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia – include regularly forgetting recent events, names, and faces,” said Dr Athwal.
He listed other warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, which includes:
- Repeatedly asking the same questions
- Having trouble with tasks and activities that require organisation and planning, as well as tasks relating to money and numbers
- Becoming easily confused or lost in unfamiliar environments
- Becoming more anxious and withdrawn, particularly in social situations and public spaces.
“The second most common type of dementia is vascular dementia,” Dr Athwal continued.
“Symptoms of vascular dementia are similar to Alzheimer’s disease, but memory loss may not be a major feature in the early stages.”
Symptoms “more typical” of vascular dementia can include:
- Muscle weakness or temporary paralysis: some people who develop vascular dementia can experience stroke-like symptoms which often require urgent medical attention.
- Mobility issues: some people experience movement problems, such as difficulty walking or a change in the way and speed they walk.
- Cognitive problems: having problems with planning and reasoning.
- Mood changes: some experience depression and a tendency to become more emotionally unstable.
Whether or not dementia symptoms develop slowly over many years, or come on really quickly, can not be predicted.
“If a loved one is becoming increasingly forgetful, encourage them to see their GP to talk about the early signs of dementia and their symptoms,” Dr Athwal advised.
“There are a multitude of reasons as to why someone might have memory loss that are less serious than dementia, but it’s vital to seek medical advice early on to either rule it out, or get an early diagnosis which can help slow progression.”
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