What's up doc - alzheimer’s

‘What’s Up Doc’ is a health column in association with The Crawley Observer, which gives you the opportunity to ask questions regarding general health and wellbeing.

Answers are provided weekly from our specialist consultants at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital, Surrey. If it’s a long-standing illness or simply a worry which you would like to get off your mind then we would like to help.

This question appeared in The Crawley Observer on 19 September 2012, to readers across Surrey and Sussex. The question and answer is below, as it appeared in the newspaper.


“Dear Doc, my mother has been diagnosed with alzheimer’s and I would like know what are the early symptoms of dementia? Also, because my mother has alzheimer's disease does that mean I could get it too, is it something that runs through your family? Is there a cure? Are there any drug treatments for alzheimer's disease? Can alzheimer's disease be prevented? And do you provide treatment at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital? I hope you can help, its worrying me a lot." Mr Patel, Reigate.


Dr Dennis Chan, consultant neurologist has broken down the question, with his responses below...

Early symptoms of dementia?
"The hallmark early symptom of alzheimer's disease (ad) is memory impairment, such as forgetting details of recent events, conversations. Other early symptoms include word-finding difficulty and getting lost.  However,  it is important to note that memory decline can also occur as a result of anxiety, or even just be a reflection of getting older, so more detailed clinical assessment and testing (e.g. with MRI brain scanning) is required to help identify those people who may be developing early ad. It is also important to recognise that ad is not the only cause of dementia, just the commonest cause; there are other diseases that cause dementia."

As my mother has alzheimer’s disease does that I mean could get it too, is it something that runs in through your family?
"A very small percentage of people have familial ad, due to genetic mutations, which runs from generation to generation, and typically these people develop ad much earlier, for example in their 40s or 50s.  However the vast majority of people with ad develop this in later life, typically in their 70s, and in these cases the risk of developing ad for children of affected parents is much less."

Is there a cure for alzheimer’s disease?
"There is no cure for ad at present.  However there is a lot of research into more effective therapies, which in time may lead to a cure.  More research is required to help accelerate the discovery of a cure, and this is why the prime minister himself chose to emphasise the importance of dementia research in his previous speeches on this topic."

Are there any drug treatments for alzheimer's disease?
Yes, there are several licensed drugs, the most well-known of which is called Aricept.

Can alzheimer's disease be prevented?
"We cannot as yet prevent ad but – as with the search for a cure – there is a lot of research into how we might prevent, or delay it in the future.  Some of this may involve changes in lifestyle, such as eating healthier Mediterranean-style diets."

Do you provide treatment at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital?
"Spire Gatwick Park Hospital does run a neurology consultant-led specialist diagnostic service for people worried about their memory problems, and as part of this service people are offered treatments if a diagnosis of ad is established." 

Do you need an appointment?

Dr Chan, offers appointments at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital on Fridays.  To book an appointment call 01293 778 906 or email info@spiregatwick.com.

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