An early warning sign of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. It is the most common presenting symptom. It is important to talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in everyday functions due to memory loss in yourself or someone else. Learn more about the early warning signs of dementia.
My mum's been diagnosed with dementia. I'm really scared I'm going to get it. What are the early warning signs I should look out for?
Professor Susan Kurrle
In Alzheimer's disease, the commonest presenting symptom is memory loss. People are not able to function normally, because they can't remember what they should be doing, or what they've just done. And it's short term memory loss. So you might be able to remember very accurately what you did 20 years ago, but you can't remember what you had for breakfast this morning. And if other people notice your memory problems, that is also a concern.
In vascular dementia, often they have problems with speech. Sometimes with behaviour. Sometimes with calculation.
In dementia with Lewy bodies, visual hallucinations-- vivid visual hallucinations-- are often quite common. And people can get quite stiff, and look as if they have Parkinson's disease.
In frontotemporal dementia, often it's behavioural changes. People start making really odd decisions about their life, about their money. And this can be the first sign of frontotemporal dementia.
If you notice any problems with memory in yourself, or in someone close to you, then it's really important you go and talk to your general practitioner. Explain your concerns, and ask him or her if they can examine you for that, because there are things that can be done.
I know my grandmother had it before she passed away. Am I at risk?
Professor Susan Kurrle
There is a slightly increased risk of getting dementia if a member of your family has it. But it's not huge. It's actually about 3%. So just because a family member has it, doesn't mean you'll get it, unless they got it when they were very young.
If a person with dementia is in their 40s or 50s, then you need to look for a family history of dementia, because there could be an underlying genetic problem there.
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Last reviewed: June 2021