New research by UCL has highlighted that memory loss may not always be a first symptom of Alzheimer's disease.
A study of 7,815 people has found that younger people may initially suffer from problems with language, judgement or visual/spatial awareness before memory loss. The report focused on the theory that the symptoms experienced may depend on a person's age, suggesting that doctors will need new ways of perceiving Alzheimer's.
Across all age groups, memory loss was the most common first symptom, but among younger individuals, problem solving and loss of visual awareness were reported initially. Furthermore, a quarter of those aged under 60 and 20 per cent of those in their 60s had symptoms other than memory loss - these numbers fell to ten percent in those in their 70s and one-in-15 for those aged over 80.
Dr Jo Barnes, Alzheimer's Research UK senior research fellow at UCL, said: "Our results highlight the many different ways Alzheimer's can affect the brain, causing problems with several different cognitive processes, not just memory. Brain imaging studies have suggested that the disease may be more likely to affect different parts of the brain in younger people, and this may help to explain some of the different symptoms seen in our study. Importantly, however, even in older groups not all people with Alzheimer's report memory loss as their first warning sign of the disease."
If symptoms other than memory loss are being detected, it is crucial that we look at diagnosing the condition in a whole new light. Doctors will soon have to use tests that are not solely focused on memory, while the study also pays attention to some of the other distresses that sufferers have to deal with.
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