Dementia: Menopause symptoms can be mistaken for the disease – how to tell the difference

This Morning: Early menopause sufferer explains symptoms

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As we get older the more at risk we are of developing the condition. However, there is another age-related health issue that has some symptoms in common. Dr Shinvani Dattani, a GP at private clinic London Gynaecology believes symptoms of menopause can easily be confused for dementia.

She said: “Difficulties with memory and concentration, sometime known as ‘brain fog’ is a very common symptom of the menopause.

“This leads some women to think that the symptoms they are experiencing may be an early sign of dementia, which commonly causes memory loss, confusion and problems with speech and understanding.”

But there are other tell-tale signs that you are experiencing menopause rather than dementia.

She explained: “Memory loss associated with the menopause often co-exists with other menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, mood changes, anxiety, urinary symptoms, vaginal dryness, general aches and pains, headaches, tiredness and changes to periods.”

Dementia patients are also likely to see memory issues “worsen over time”.

Dr Dattani added: “Dementia is a term for a range of disorders affecting the brain, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease.

“The common symptoms of dementia include memory loss, confusion and problems with speech and understanding which worsen over time.”

Women are more at risk of dementia than men – and according to the Alzheimer’s Society, women with dementia outnumber men two to one across the world.

This has led to theories linking oestrogen levels with dementia.

“Most of the research has focused on Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common cause of dementia,” Dr Dattani states.

“We don’t fully understand why women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than men, but one of the main theories is to do with the hormone oestrogen.

“When women go through the menopause their bodies stop producing as much oestrogen. Men continue to produce testosterone throughout their lives, which is converted into oestrogen in brain cells.

“It is thought that oestrogen plays a role in protecting the brain from damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease and that this protective effect is lost when oestrogen levels are decreased as a result of the menopause.”

Symptoms of dementia to look out for according to the NHS include:

  • memory loss, such as remembering past events much more easily than recent ones
  • problems thinking or reasoning,
  • or finding it hard to follow conversations or TV programmes
  • feeling anxious, depressed or angry about memory loss, or feeling confused, even when in a familiar environment

The NHS recommends seeing a GP if you have any concerns about dementia.

It says: “If you’re worried about your memory, it’s well worth talking to a GP. They may be able to reassure you that you don’t have dementia.

“But if you do have dementia, an early diagnosis may help you get the right treatment and support in place in good time.

“Finding out sooner rather than later can also give friends and family valuable time to adjust, and prepare for the future.”

There are more than 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia.

One in 14 people over the age of 65 have dementia, and the condition affects one in six people over 80.

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