People across Lincolnshire are being urged to talk to their GP if they are concerned that either they or a friend or relative has dementia.
Often undiagnosed, dementia and its symptoms can be mistaken for old age, which has the unfortunate outcome that many people are left confused about whether they have dementia or not.
Currently 670,000 people are estimated to be living with dementia in England, but only around half have been formally diagnosed, in South West Lincolnshire just 52.7 percent of people estimated to have dementia have been diagnosed. Whilst dementia cannot be cured, early detection can slow down symptoms.
“With the right support people diagnosed with dementia can lead active and fulfilling lives, and this is why diagnosis of dementia is so critical,” comments Dr Dave Baker, GP and Chair, South West Lincolnshire CCG.
Dementia is a term used to describe different disorders that can trigger a loss of brain function, the most common being Alzheimer’s, and the symptoms to look out for include memory loss, confusion and problems with understanding and speech.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for more than half of all cases of dementia, and results in the brain shrinking and the number of nerve fibres in the brain gradually reducing, but it is not known why this happens or exactly how they cause dementia.
“Although there is much about Alzheimer’s we don’t yet understand, we do know it tends to progress gradually over time. The second most common type we see is vascular dementia, which is caused by a reduction of blood flow to the brain, and often caused by a stroke or series of small strokes,” adds Dr Baker.
The symptoms of dementia can be difficult to diagnose as they can vary from person to person, and often it is a family member or carer that notices changes, rather than the person themselves.
“Visiting your GP is usually the first step in getting a diagnosis. We will look at your medical history and carry out a physical examination to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms. Ultimately, if we feel dementia is a possibility we will refer you on to see a specialist,” concludes Dr Baker.
For people concerned they may have dementia or those with a diagnosis of dementia, as well as their families, friends and carers, there is a wide range of information available, including the Alzheimer’s Society’s National Dementia Helpline 0300 222 1122. Alternatively visit www.alzheimers.org.uk/memoryworry