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The symptom that may show up several years before the onset of dementia

onset of dementia

To date, scientists have discovered more than a hundred various kinds of dementia. Interestingly, each type of dementia showed multiple symptoms. But the most significant thing is to understand the differences between them. In most cases, people usually lose a memory with the onset of dementia. However, it is not always the first sign to indicate dementia. For instance, several research studies have shown that numbness can last for decades before the expected symptoms of dementia appear.

Used FTD causing mutated gene during the study

During the study, researchers examined around 304 healthy volunteers. They all carried FTD (frontotemporal dementia), causing a mutated gene. The study additional added around 296 healthy volunteers having normal genes. However, they all were the relatives of volunteers with FTD causing a mutated gene.

Researchers followed all the participants for over several years. After several years of follow-up, none of them developed dementia. Additionally, most participants did not know whether they had that mutated gene during the study periods.

Observed brain shrinkage of initiative and motivation supportive part

The researchers sought to analyze the changes developed in MRI scans, memory tests, and apathy of the brain during the follow-up.

During the study, instead of just taking a microphotograph, researchers discovered how even the slightest change in apathy offered an alteration in cognition, but not on the other way around, said Ms. Malpetti. She is the first author of this study.

Many years before the beginning of the predicted onset of dementia symptoms, they also observed brain shrinkage in parts that support initiative and motivation.

FTD causing a mutated gene is responsible for brain apathy 

Furthermore, they also found that participants with the genetic mutations frequently developed more apathy than other family members. And, it significantly increased in people with average genetics after two years of follow-up.

Researchers suggested that apathy was likely to develop cognitive decline that might accelerate as they reached the estimated age for the onset of dementia symptoms.

Rogier Kievit is a Professor at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge University and the Donders Institute, Radboud University Medical Center at Nijmegen. According to him, apathy developed more frequently in individuals at a higher risk of frontotemporal dementia associated with more atrophy in the brain. Although the volunteers with a genetic mutation did not show any symptoms at the beginning of the study, they still had higher levels of apathy. The extent of apathy anticipated cognitive problems in the upcoming years.

Apathy was linked to frontotemporal dementia

James Rowe is a joint senior author and a Professor at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences. He said that from the past studies, researchers have already identified that apathy is not a good indication in people with frontotemporal dementia for their survival and independent living. Therefore, this study tried to determine the importance of apathy in dementia patients in the decades before the beginning of the symptoms.

The possible reasons behind the development of apathy 

Professor Rowe further said that this study also highlights the significance of investigating the reason behind the progress of apathy.

Researchers said that there are several reasons why a person feels apathetic. They expected that it is more likely an easily treatable medical condition. It might be due to a psychiatric disorder like depression or a low level of thyroid hormone. However, clinicians must keep in mind the risk of developing apathy heralding dementia during the treatment. Furthermore, it may also increase the possibility of developing dementia if left untreated, especially in the case of a family history of dementia.

In the last, researchers added that despite all of the research, dementia treatment is still challenging, but they can diagnose this condition very early. Thus, it would broaden the window of opportunity to try and interfere and stop or slow the progress of dementia.

Early symptoms at the onset of dementia

Dementia is not a natural aging process, but it shows a broad range of symptoms that varies from person to person. Some early symptoms appear just before a diagnosis of dementia. These are as follows:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusing about place and time
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulty in carrying out ordinary daily tasks, like becoming confused to choose a thing while shopping
  • Struggling to find the right word or follow a conversation

These symptoms are usually mild that gradually may get worse with time. These types of signs are generally termed mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Furthermore, these symptoms are not severe enough to cause dementia.

Specific Alzheimer’s symptoms

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common among all dementia types. Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s are as follows:

  • Repetitively asking questions
  • Memory problems, including frequently forgetting events, faces, and names even if it recently happens
  • Difficulties with daily activities and tasks that require planning and organization
  • Difficulty using the right words while conversation
  • Getting confused in new environments
  • Difficulty handling money or with numbers in shops
  • Getting more anxious or withdrawn

Specific vascular dementia symptoms 

After Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia is the second cause of dementia. Sometimes people have Alzheimer’s disease along with vascular dementia, usually called mixed dementia.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are much similar, but in vascular dementia, memory loss in the early stages may not appear so obviously. Depending on the condition, symptoms may appear gradually or suddenly.

Some specific symptoms for this type of dementia are as follows:

  • Stroke: Temporary paralysis or muscle weakness on one side of the body that need urgent medical treatment
  • Movement Problems: Often, a person has difficulty changing how they walk or have difficulty walking.
  • Thinking issues: Difficulty with reasoning, attention, and planning
  • Mood changes: becoming more emotional or facing depression

Specific symptoms for dementia with Lewy bodies

Many symptoms of dementia with Lewy bodies are similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease, but it may also include the following:

  • Inconsistent levels of confusion or being tired or alert
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Seeing persons or things that are not present or visual hallucinations
  • Repeated fainting and falls
  • Becoming sluggish in while physical movements

Specific frontotemporal dementia symptoms 

Alzheimer’s disease is still the most prevalent type of dementia in under 65 aged adults. Still, a more significant number of patients in this age group may also develop frontotemporal dementia than older ones. Therefore, mostly, people are diagnosed with this disease between 45 to 65 years of age.

Some early symptoms of frontotemporal dementia are as follows:

  • Becoming obsessive like over drinking and eating or getting fads for uncommon foods
  • Personality changes: Lack of sensitivity to the feelings of others, making people seem cold and unfeeling
  • Language issues: Difficulty understanding words or finding the right one
  • Losing social awareness: Some people may be very unconcerned and reluctant to become less tricky or make inappropriate jokes.

Common symptoms appear at the late stages of dementia

As dementia goes advanced, difficulties with communication and memory loss usually become more severe. In the late stages, the person cannot care about their health. As a result, they need continuous medical attention and care.

Here are the common symptoms of late-stage dementia, such as:

  • Memory issues: patients sometimes cannot recognize even the close friends or family members or remember where they are currently present and where they live
  • Communication issues: Sometimes, people may completely lose their speaking ability sooner. They often use non-verbal communication, including gestures, touches, and facial expressions.
  • Movement problems: Showing lack of unaided movements. Some people may eventually disable to walk independently and either, confined to bed or need a wheelchair
  • Behavioral issues: Most people develop psychological and behavioral symptoms of dementia, including depressive symptoms, aggression, increased agitation, wandering, anxiety, or sometimes hallucinations
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence: It is a common problem at the late stages of dementia.
  • Weight loss or feeling appetite: These problems are also common in later stages of dementia. Most people show trouble swallowing or eating. That is why they may develop chest infections, choking, and other issues.


To conclude, there are over a hundred different types of dementia with various symptoms. Therefore, understanding the differences between these symptoms is essential for early diagnosis and better treatment. Among all of them, memory loss with the onset of dementia is the most observed symptom. However, this symptom is not always the first sign indicating dementia. For example, past studies have also shown the links of long-lasting numbness before the predicted onset of dementia symptoms.

Researchers used healthy adults with the FTD-causing mutated and un-mutated genes as a sample in a recent study. Researchers observed shrinkage of the brain in the motivation and initiative supportive part. They concluded that FTD causing mutated genes is responsible for brain apathy in the participants. They further found the association of apathy with frontotemporal dementia. In the last, the researcher also predicted some possible reasons for apathy in the brain. However, they believed that further studies are still needed to better understand the several other undefined reasons for brain apathy.

Written by HealthRadar360

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