Behavioural changes in mid-life put down to relationship problems, the menopause, or a mid-life crisis may in fact be early symptoms of dementia according to Jonathan Rohrer, a specialist in frontotemporal dementia at University College, London.
He says doctors are “stuck on the idea” that memory loss was the key symptom. Not so. Whilst that is associated with Alzheimer’s, personality changes and loss of motivation can be warning signs of other forms of dementia. Unfortunately these take much longer to be diagnosed.
Most common in middle-aged people, frontotemporal dementia affects the frontal lobes of the brain leading to loss of motivation, vision problems, and shedding of inhibitions.
“People become more irritable, saying rude things that are socially unacceptable, as one of the symptoms is loss of empathy towards loved ones. People go to the GP and say “my partner’s not right” and the doctor says “it’s just mid-life” or “you’re not getting on any more””.
So what are the warning signs?
- Loss of inhibition including tactless comments and impulsive behaviour
- Loss of motivation but not accompanied by sadness
- Loss of sympathy or empathy such as showing less interest in others
- Cravings for sweet or fatty foods
- Slow or hesitant speech including stuttering
- Repetition of compulsive behaviour
- Decline in personal hygiene
Dr Rohrer has just announced that he is starting a project to look for the genetic causes of this form of dementia.
Reported in The Times
My last post on dementia