HealthFighting the shadows. Unmasking the hidden 36% living with undiagnosed dementia

Fighting the shadows. Unmasking the hidden 36% living with undiagnosed dementia

The symptoms of dementia can be insidious.
The symptoms of dementia can be insidious.
Images source: © Licensor | Photographer: Dragos Condrea
9:42 AM EST, December 27, 2023

Known as clinical masking, diagnostic suppression is a case where the symptoms of a disease are not as easily identified or noticeably pronounced. This scenario can stem from various causes:

1. Dementia-induced brain changes can spur balance, vision, or hearing disorders. Unfortunately, these disorders may be misinterpreted as symptoms of different illnesses like stroke, infection, or cancer.

2. Psychological manifestations of dementia-related disorders are often mistaken as depressive symptoms.

3. Symptoms like forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, or behavior changes are usually written off as age-related conditions or stress-associated occurrences.

Acknowledging these symptoms can be complicated when some patients feel ashamed or deny them, making the diagnosis process harder.

The Effect of Unawareness

Patient unawareness often results in a lack of proper care and support. The absence of diagnosis and treatment can hasten disease progression and heighten the risk of complications, including social isolation or depression.

To curb the number of "clinical masking" instances, it’s indispensable to foster awareness about dementia and its initial symptoms. This can be achieved through public education, regular check-ups for at-risk individuals, and maintaining an open dialogue about dementia. All these efforts can encourage earlier detection and a broader understanding of this disease.

Recognizing Dementia Symptoms

Dementia symptoms include:

- Behavioral changes like agitation, aggression, depression, anxiety and apathy, social withdrawal, inappropriate reactions, impulsivity and new behaviors

- Memory loss

- Changes in motor skills, such as lifting-leg difficulties, and problems with spatial navigation

- Difficulty concentrating

- Trouble carrying out familiar daily tasks, such as confusion over small shopping changes

- Communication difficulties like finding the right words, sentence construction problems, not being able to keep up with conversations

- Confusion regarding time and place

- Mood fluctuations

- Planning, organizing, and problem-solving difficulties

- Sudden clumsiness, distorted spatial awareness, and incorrect distance gauging.

If these symptoms persist and cannot be associated with any other medical or psychological illness, it might point to this disease.

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