Dementia is an umbrella term to describe an array of brain diseases, with Alzheimer’s being the most common form of the condition. How can somebody determine whether or not they’re affected in the early stages?
Typically, with people who have Alzheimer’s, an area of the brain called the hippocampus is damaged.
The hippocampus plays a major role in learning and memory, and is found in the temporal lobe of the brain.
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Resembling the shape of a seahorse, the hippocampus helps people to retrieve two kinds of memory: declarative and spatial relationship memories.
According to Medical News Today, an example of declarative memory is when somebody memorises a speech.
Spatial relationship memories, on the other hand, involve pathways or routes. For instance, when a cab driver learns a route through a city.
The hippocampus is also responsible for transforming short-term memories into long-term memories.
Those with Alzheimer’s, who have their hippocampus affected, experience the inability to form new long-term memories.
Still able to recall distant events, the first symptom of Alzheimer’s is when a person begins to lose their short-term memory.
This can show up, for example, by forgetting where they’ve put their keys and glasses.
Alzheimer’s Society lists other common examples of memory loss that may be present as the condition worsens.
The charity points out that everybody’s experience of the disease will be unique to them, but frequent challenges can include:
- Forgetting a friend’s name, or struggle to find the right word in a conversation
- Forgetting about recent conversations or events
- Get lost in a familiar place or on a familiar journey
- Forget appointments or significant dates.
Over time, more brain cells become damaged which means symptoms do worsen, and can start to interfere with a person’s day-to-day life.
Further difficulties consist of issues with thinking, reasoning, language and perception.
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The charity states repetitive speech, or struggling to follow a conversation, is one sign the disease has progressed.
Finding it hard to make a decision, solve problems or carry out a sequence of tasks (such as cooking a meal) can also indicate an advancement of Alzheimer’s.
It adds: “A person in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s will often have changes in their mood.
“They may become anxious, depressed or more easily annoyed.
“Many people lose interest in talking to people, or in activities and hobbies.
“These changes can be challenging for both the person with dementia and those close to them to live with.”
For those concerned about Alzheimer’s, visit your GP.
A diagnosis will typically follow a discussion of medical history, symptoms and some mental ability tests.
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