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New diagnostic criteria shine light on early dementia mimics

senior man sitting on the hospital bed alone at night

UK academics and clinicians have collaborated to develop a diagnostic definition of the widely recognised but poorly understood condition, Functional Cognitive Disorder (FCD).

Dr Harriet Ball from the University of Bristol, first author of the paper, said providing diagnostic criteria was an incredibly important step toward improving diagnosis, management and research into FCD and other cognitive disorders.

“Dysfunction of day-to-day thinking processes is a feature of FCD but it is often misdiagnosed as early dementia. We estimate up to a third of people attending specialist memory clinics have FCD. While FCD involves impairment of thinking processes, unlike dementia, it is not expected to progress. From a patient’s point of view, that is a very different prognosis and one that requires different management.

“As clinicians, our aim is to unravel the causes of early memory symptoms, and importantly, identify those that can improve over time rather than deteriorate towards dementia. Having clear diagnostic criteria for FCD will enable us to better characterise the condition and better explain it – and its prognosis – to patients and their families,” said Dr Ball.

The position paper: Functional cognitive disorder: dementia’s blind spot is the collaborative effort of 25 of the UK’s leading experts on the topic and represents the first agreed clinical definition of FCD.

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