Dr Johnathan Chan Consultant Neurologist and Dementia Specialist

Memory Disturbance and Dementia

Experiencing a difficulty with memory can be the first sign of dementia. However, it is important to know that there are a number of other treatable neurological and medical conditions such as chronic migraine, obstructive sleep apnoea, or anxiety and depression that can also result in problems with memory. This means that having symptoms of a disturbance in your memory does not always necessarily mean a diagnosis of dementia.


Dementia also does not necessarily mean that you need to have a problem with your memory. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and it usually presents with memory problems. However, there are other types of dementia that can present with very different symptoms. Certain types of dementia can present with progressive changes in behaviour or personality, or a disturbance in speech and language abilities, or even a disturbance in the way in which you process visual information. Furthermore, people who develop dementia under the age of 65 tend to have a wider range of presentations including symptoms of anxiety and depression which can often lead to a misdiagnosis.


A careful assessment of symptoms along with customised neuropsychological testing of your various cognitive functions is necessary for the accurate diagnosis of your condition. In most cases, specialised investigations involving MRI scanning of your brain to look for any alteration to your brain structure, or Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning of your brain to assess for any loss of cerebral function might also be required to confirm the diagnosis.


If a diagnosis of Dementia has been established, a range of research-proven medications can then be commenced to try to improve the cognitive function of people who have certain types of dementia like Alzheimer's disease.  However, the treatment of Dementia involves more than just the use of medications and ultimately requires a holistic approach to care.  Being given a diagnosis of Dementia will have a significant impact on a person and on their family.  Understanding the nature of the condition, both from the perspective of the person suffering with the condition, and from the perspective of family members, is crucial in helping to provide the necessary long-term support so as enable the person with Dementia to have the best quality of life possible.  Enlisting the help of local services and supportive organisations like the Alzheimer's Society in this process can be invaluable.


Collaboration with the Alzheimer's Society

My close partnership with the Alzheimer's Society has been showcased in June/July 2017 publication of "Living Well With Dementia", the national magazine of the Alzheimer's Society.    https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/20228/junejuly_2017/1109/on_the_spot

 

Young Onset Dementia

Young onset dementia is dementia that affects people who are under 65 years of age.  The different ways in which dementia presents in this age group can make the diagnosis more challenging.  As a fair number of people with young onset dementia are still of working age, the impact on their lives is also significantly different and they often require different avenues of support.


You can find out more about Young Onset Dementia with the following links:

Alzheimer's Society

Young Dementia UK


 

Common Types of Young Onset Dementia

Alzheimer's Disease (AD)

Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

Lewy Body Dementia

Primary Progressive Aphasias (PPA)



Types of Medications used in Dementia

Cognitive Enhancers: 
Donepezil, Rivastigmine, Memantine, Galantamine


Mood stabilizers:

Citalopram, Sertraline, Fluoxetine, Duloxetine, Venlafaxine, Mirtazepine


Links to Further Support Websites:

Alzheimer's Society

Young Dementia UK

Age UK - information about financial support

Dementia UK

Carer's Trust

Alzheimer's Research UK - carries out dementia research