A neurologist has said that a potential early symptom of dementia can be found in people’s vision. And this early warning sign often appears before sufferers experience the memory loss most closely associated with Alzheimer’s disease
An early sign of dementia might be noticed in vision changes before memory loss, suggests a neurologist.
This potential early warning usually happens before the well-known memory loss linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Health researchers from the University of California in San Francisco believe that the initial signs of dementia could be detected by eye doctors if they know how to spot a condition known as posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), also referred to as Benson’s syndrome.
This condition impacts brain areas responsible for tasks like spelling, calculations, spatial perception and complex visual processing, and is sometimes described as a visual variant of Alzheimer’s. Dr Marianne Chapleau, a neurologist from the same university’s Department of Neurology, proposed that faster and more frequent diagnosis of PCA could be beneficial to many patients who are in the primary stages of developing Alzheimer’s.
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She said: “Most patients see their optometrist when they start experiencing visual symptoms and may be referred to an ophthalmologist who may also fail to recognize PCA. We need better tools in clinical settings to identify these patients early on and get them treatment.”
The signs of PCA, a key indicator for early diagnosis of dementia, usually appear before the age of 60, which is earlier than the first signs of memory loss and confusion in those developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to The Express. Dr Chapleau’s full research paper was published in The Lancet.
People with PCA typically visit a doctor about 3.8 years after symptoms appear, by which time mild or moderate symptoms of dementia are already evident, says Dr Chapleau and her team. Many PCA sufferers show signs of “constructional dyspraxia, space perception deficit, and simultanagnosia.”
These terms refer to difficulties copying drawings, identifying the location of objects, and focusing on more than one object at a time. Almost half also struggle with simple maths and reading.
Researchers believe that PCA is underdiagnosed and want to raise awareness of the disorder and its links to early dementia diagnosis. More information about lesser-known causes of dementia can be found via the NHS and the Alzheimer’s Society has a section on posterior cortical atrophy.