Dementia: Doctor outlines changes to help prevent disease
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Dementia is a devastating diagnosis because there is currently no cure and the symptoms become debilitating. Most people fear the signs that come with age, such as memory loss. However, memory loss is not always a telltale sign and the onset is not always old age.
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is generally seen more frequently in the under 65-year age group, explains Dementia UK.
FTD refers to a group of disorders caused by progressive nerve cell loss in the brain’s frontal lobes (the areas behind your forehead) or its temporal lobes (the regions behind your ears).
According to Dementia UK, it is thought to have an average age of onset between 40-60 years.
In fact, “it is the most common form of dementia in the under 65-year age group,” the charity reports.
The early signs are not like other forms of dementia.
“The changes tend to affect personality, decision making, problem solving, communication and social behaviour,” explains Dementia UK.
“These symptoms are often overlooked or attributed to other causes such as stress, depression, relationship, or work-related difficulties.”
According to the health body, it takes on average four years to get a diagnosis of FTD due to lack of recognition of early signs as compared with 14 months for dementia occurring over 65 years.
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The main risk factors
Although most cases are diagnosed in people aged 40-60, there are other risk factors.
It’s not fully understood why this happens, but there’s often a genetic link.
Research indicates that about 30-40 percent of FTDs are genetic.
In these cases, it is an autosomal dominant genetic disorder, which means that each child of the person diagnosed has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the faulty gene.
What support is available?
This is very variable throughout the UK.
“In areas where there are specialist young onset dementia teams, the family should be referred to these services post-diagnosis,” explains Dementia UK.
“Where specialist young onset dementia services don’t exist, often families report that they feel lost in the system, with GP follow up and interventions only available in a crisis.”
The charity continued: “Alternatively, the person with FTD may be referred to older age services, and although they might have experience in working with dementia they often do not have the specialist knowledge and skills regarding FTD that the family need.
“In some areas of the UK, specialist dementia nurses (Admiral Nurses) can give specialist advice and support to the whole family living with the complex effects of FTD.
“For those areas that do not yet have an Admiral Nurse, the family can contact Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline for specialist advice and support.
“Rare Dementia Support is also developing a specialist hub where support for families can be accessed and is based in London.”
World FTD Awareness Week is currently running until October 3.
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