UCLH professor warns of 'silent plague' 

21/09/2012 00:00 

Urgent action is needed to halt the spiralling numbers of dementia cases, warns leading neurologist Professor Andrew Lees who has published a new e-book entitled 'The Silent Plague'.

 The images demonstrate widespread brain shrinkage progressing at a rapid rate in patient with Alzheimer's disease.( brain loss s

The images demonstrate widespread brain shrinkage progressing at a rapid rate in patient with Alzheimer's disease.( brain loss shown in blue/green and increases in fluid space red/yellow). The left image is that of a control patient

In an interview with The Observer newspaper, the clinical director of the Queen Square Brain Bank for Neurological Disorders said:  “We need to act very speedily to halt this from becoming a crisis. Getting people to donate brains that we can study and analyse to try to understand the basic science behind dementia would be a welcome development, for a start. Donors with younger onset Alzheimer’s and fronto temporal dementias would be particularly invaluable.”

Alzheimer’s: The Silent Plague (published by Penguin) aims to raise awareness of the growing problem and offers accessible and up-to-date information for patients, carers and health professionals on the disease, latest research and available therapies.

Today marks the first global Alzheimer’s Action Day (21 Sept) to raise awareness and challenge stigma plus the launch of a three month Department of Health TV advertisement and poster campaign.

The government drive also focuses on raising awareness among non-clinical NHS staff such as porters, domestics and receptionists with the aim of improving the service provided to patients with dementia.

The crisis rests on the fact that more and more people are living longer and many fear that health services may soon become overwhelmed.

Professor Lees added: “The single key risk factor for succumbing to dementia is a person’s age. There are other factors involved like obesity, depression, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar, but it is age that matters above all else.”

Scientists are also trying to find out why more than 20,000 people in the UK get Alzheimer's before they are 65. Some genes are thought to increase the risk of the disease taking hold, but more research is needed to explain why.

Speaking to the BBC, Nick Fox, professor of neurology at the dementia research centre at University College London, says research into early-onset Alzheimer's is very important because understanding why people get the disease 20 or 30 years earlier than most people with Alzheimer's may provide clues to the causes and the treatment of the disease.

In addition, people get more unusual variants of the disease when sufferers are younger.

On the BBC health pages he is quoted as saying: "Alzheimer's disease is a dreadful burden at any time of life but people who present in their 50s and 60s have additional problems.

"They can get into trouble at work if it's not recognised. They may get into financial difficulties and they're often looking forward to their retirement at that point."

A diagnosis is difficult to make too. People with early-onset Alzheimer's tend to be told they are depressed or stressed.

To find out more general information about dementia visit NHS Choices 



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