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Middle-aged people with symptoms of dementia are being misdiagnosed by doctors who aren’t always aware of the wide range of signs of the disease.

While memory loss is probably one of the best known symptoms of dementia, it’s by no means the only one. From difficulty reading words and a lack of spatial awareness to a hankering for sweet foods and a lack of motivation, these can also be signs of particular types of dementia.

According to an expert in frontotemporal dementia (sometimes known as Pick’s disease) from University College London, many GPs are dismissing middle-aged patients who are presenting with some of the lesser-known symptoms of dementia as having a mid-life crisis, marital problems or depression.

‘There are quite funny symptoms that people by and large don’t think of as dementia and therefore don’t think that could be the problem,’ says Dr Jonathan Rohrer. ‘Outside specialist care, people have this old-fashioned attitude of memory being the key symptom.’

Studies show those with frontotemporal dementia can wait up to five years for a diagnosis – two years longer than those with more common types. The problem is most prevalent among middle-aged people.

‘People become more irritable, say[ing] rude things that are socially unacceptable, as one of the symptoms is loss of empathy towards loved ones,’ says Dr Rohrer. ‘…a lot of people … are simply told it’s a problem in their marriage.’

It’s why it’s so important to raise awareness of the many different tell-tale signs of dementia, and for GPs to get the right training to recognise them in patients in a timely manner.

Did you know? A warped sense of humour was found to be an early sign of dementia, according to a 2015 study from UCL. Click here for more info.

For more information on the different signs of dementia click here. For information on frontotemporal dementia, click here.