Dementia can be a symptom of a variety of health issues, including Alzheimer's disease and other problems that cause changes in your brain. While it is rare for younger people (in theirs 20s and 30s) to develop the condition, it is possible to experience signs of early-onset dementia. So let's talk about what dementia might look like, and what you should watch out for.
"'Early-onset dementia' is an ambiguous term used by doctors for at least three different disorders," Dr. Howard Fillit, founding executive director and chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, tells Bustle. "The signs are generally the same, whether you develop Alzheimer’s in your 30s or 80s." As you probably know from seeing older people with Alzheimer's, symptoms of dementia are mainly memory based, but can also include mood and personality changes.
Again, this is not the most common thing in the world for young people to experience, so you certainly shouldn't assume you have dementia if you're kind of forgetful or if you're feeling a bit foggy. You should, however, talk with your doctor if those feelings get progressively worse, or if they start seriously impacting your life. Read on for some common signs of early-onset dementia, so you can figure out what's wrong and then get as much help as possible.
1. You've Been Experiencing Memory Changes
If you have dementia, one of the first symptoms you might experience is a change in your ability to remember things. "Signs of early-onset dementia include short term memory changes, often described as an 'inability to keep a thought in your head,'" Dr. Faisal Tawwab, MD, tells Bustle. If your words escape you or you've been super forgetful, take note.
2. You Suddenly Despise Any Kind Of Change
When dementia sufferers are experiencing confusion and memory changes, they'll commonly stick with a strict routine as a way to cope and feel safer. That's why, as Dr. Scott Schreiber tells me, a lack of desire to try something new or deviate from your usual path may be an indicator that your memory is letting you down.
3. You Keep Getting Lost
The confusion associated with dementia can cause you to get lost more often, possibly while on your way somewhere new. But it can even happen when heading somewhere you've been dozens of times. "With today's technology, you may find that you are using your GPS to go to places that you knew how to get to previously," Schreiber says. While we all get turned around or lost occasionally, you should be concerned if this issue is getting progressively worse.
4. You Can't Remember Anyone's Name
Recall is an issue many people with dementia struggle with, so take note if you feel like you can no longer remember anyone's name. "When at a social gathering you [might] forget names of people you just met," Schreiber says. Or you might not be able to remember a friend's name when telling a story. So if people are calling you out for blanking all the time, it may be time to get yourself checked.
5. Your Mood Has Changed
While it's totally normal to have mood changes throughout the day, it's not as normal to experience a major shift in your personality. "A significant shift in personality, like shy to outgoing, can represent a decrease in awareness of inhibitions," Tawwab says. This can be chalked up to the changes going on in your brain, so don't let it go on ignored.
6. You're Suddenly Bad At Making Decisions
Indecisiveness is definitely not always a sign of dementia, but a sudden inability to plan and organize may indicate a problem with your "executive function." As Fillit says, "This covers our ability to plan, organize, focus, and reason. You might find it difficult make decisions or to focus enough to complete tasks with multiple steps, such as cooking or getting dressed."
7. You Can't Remember That Restaurant's Name
If you constantly forget what you had for breakfast, or you can't recall the name of that restaurant you just went to, take note. "The most common sign is memory problems that interfere with your daily life," Fillit says. "You may have trouble remembering familiar names or places on a regular basis." And it can be incredibly frustrating.
8. You've Been Getting Confused Easily
Another typical sign of dementia? Forgetting what to do with everyday objects. According to Jessica Zwerling, MD, MS, director of the Memory Disorders Center at the Montefiore Health System, you might momentarily forget where to put your groceries, or how to use a phone. It can be a scary experience, and is definitely one you need to point out to a doctor.
9. Your Can't Recall What You Just Read
Like I said, most dementia symptoms will have an affect on your memory. So it makes sense this might affect your ability to read, too. "If someone is an avid reader, they may have to start taking notes to remind themselves of what’s going on in the novel," Zwerling says.
10. You Struggle When Learning Something New
It can be tough to learn new skills, but people with dementia often have a particularly difficult time. If you have early-onset dementia, Zwerling tells me you might struggle when learning how to use a new tool, or developing a new skill.
11. You're Experiencing Depression
As their life becomes more and more confusing and muddled, people with dementia often sink into a depression. While there are dozens of other reasons you might be feeling down, Zwerling tells me depression can be a sign of dementia.
"There are many helpful tests that look into one of the pathological causes of Alzheimer’s Disease," Zwerling says. So, if you have any of these signs or feel like your confusion and memory problems are getting worse, definitely talk with your doctor.
Images: Pexels (12)