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  • ResearcherLucy

The D word

Getting a dementia diagnosis can be many things, it can be scary and overwhelming, or it can be a relief to know what your condition is and why your memory, behaviour or the way you’re feeling is changing.

One thing is for certain, diagnosing dementia can be challenging.

With more than 600 people a day developing dementia Doctors, Nurses and Psychiatrists are working exceptionally hard to give patients accurate diagnoses. Many wish there was a single test for dementia, and so do I. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t the case.

Dementia can be difficult to diagnose, especially if your symptoms are mild.

Doctors diagnose dementia carefully based on your medical history, laboratory tests, physical examinations and scans at the hospital. Doctors can determine if you have dementia with a high level of certainty, but it’s harder to determine the exact type of the dementia. This is because the symptoms and brain changes of different dementias can overlap.

Early Diagnosis is key

Sometimes symptoms of other illnesses may mirror dementia. There are a lot of advantages of why you should make your visit to the GP a priority if you believe yourself or a loved one is showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and this is one of them.

Many people also find an earlier diagnosis allows you to plan your own legal, financial and long-term care planning. This can be both empowering and challenging, and the team at Alzheimers Research UK (ARUK) have put together a booklet to support you and your family in your choices here.

An earlier diagnosis will also give your family and friends an opportunity to learn about the disease and plan your future together.

Another reason a trip to your GP might be a good idea, is that the symptoms you are concerned about might be caused by a condition that is reversible, and some parts of your condition might be treatable. Treatment of Alzheimer’s and other dementia causing diseases are typically most effective when started early in the disease process. ARUK firmly believe in the power of research to make your world free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia, and so do their researchers.

Researchers with their fingers on the pulse...

The team at ARUK believe that a dementia cure could be just years away. This week it has even been shown that a five-minute neck scan could help to predict dementia up to a decade before symptoms appear.

Scientists funded by ARUK were among the first to use cutting edge stem cell techniques to study Alzheimer’s disease in the laboratory which is now a technology being used worldwide. In 2014, building from this, they launched the first of its kind Alzheimer’s Research UK Stem Cell Research Centre. The centre brings together Nobel Prize-winning science with scientists from both Cambridge and London to understand the biology of Alzheimer’s disease and to produce pioneering treatments.

Professor Rick Livesey is one of their incredible researchers at the centre. Through public donations to the charity he has been able to grow nerve cells that mimic those in the brain and can be used to investigate key parts of Alzheimer’s disease.

I am so proud to tell you that they are funding over 1,000 dementia specialists like Professor Livesey across 15 centres in the UK bringing together the best minds to make the breakthroughs possible.

But is it enough?

Dementia research is hugely underfunded, for every four cancer researchers there is just one Alzheimer’s researcher. If they can kick start campaigns, develop national systems such as ‘Join Dementia Research’ and launch global Clinical Trails funds now, imagine what they could do with more clinicians, more researchers, more teams.

They have already made major breakthroughs which have discovered proteins in the blood that can predict who is most likely to go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, so imagine what they could do in another 10 years time.....

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