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Dementia signs might be detected up to 9 years before onset, researchers say

Scientists point to impairment, falls and balance issues as early indicators.
older person
Posted at 6:53 PM, Oct 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-27 21:53:53-04

Researchers say data indicates that healthcare professionals may be able to diagnose demential up to nine years before its onset.

A study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association points to signs like balance issues, falls, impairment and problem-solving issues could be clues that help doctors warn of dementia years before symptoms.

University of Cambridge and Cambridge University Hospital National Health Service Foundation Trust researchers in the UK were able to examine data from the UK Biobank in their study.

They found that for those who developed Alzheimer's, more were likely to have suffered a fall in the previous 12 months.

Dementia-related diagnoses were more common in those who had impairment when it came to problem-solving and recalling numbers.

Also for those who developed balance issues like progressive supra-nuclear palsy, they were twice as likely as others to have had a fall.

Nol Swaddiwudhipong, a study author, said, “When we looked back at patients’ histories, it became clear that they were showing some cognitive impairment several years before their symptoms became obvious enough to prompt a diagnosis.”

Swaddiwudhipong said, “The impairments were often subtle, but across several aspects of cognition.”

Scientists say early diagnosis is important to allow time for entry into clinical trials and to have a chance to alter the course of the disease.

Dr. Douglas Scharcre, a professor of clinical neurology and psychiatry at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, said, “For degenerative disorders, which are progressive conditions, it is not surprising to see the pre-diagnostic cognitive and functional decline.”

He said, “We do not do a good job diagnosing patients at the earliest stages of these disorders.”