Infections Can Cause Mental Symptoms
If fighting an infection, an older person can be affected cognitively to a greater degree than a younger person might be. Urinary tract infections, for example, can wreak havoc with mental clarity. Even if there is no background of infections, a person who is showing cognitive decline needs a thorough physical. This physical should include checking for any level of infection.
Lung And Heart Disorders
Disorders of the heart and lungs are some of the top answers available for anyone who asks what conditions can be mistaken for dementia.
This is mainly because the two organs provide nutrients and oxygen to the brain hence, they are essential for normal functioning.
As people age, they may develop vascular diseases that interrupt cardiac output. Others can get lung diseases that affect oxygen delivery to the brain.
When this happens the affected person may have issues with executive function, memory, and alertness which can fool people into thinking that it is dementia.
Poor Air Quality And Allergies
Did you know that older women who live in areas where air pollution is worse are 92% more likely to develop dementia than those who live in areas with cleaner air, according to a 2017 study. The link was the strongest in women who inherited the APOE4 gene and area more susceptible to Alzheimers disease. And, if you look at these results across the general public, that means that air pollution, including high ozone levels, can be responsible for about 21% of dementia cases.
Breathing in tiny particles that float around in dirty air can trigger inflammation throughout the body and brain. Inflammation is one of the triggers that helps push people towards Alzheimers disease and dementia.
The same thing goes with environmental allergies. Inflammation from environmental allergies like dust, mold and pollen, can create brain fog, which over time can cause chronic forgetfulness, memory issues, and slowed responses, leading to dementia.
Seasonal pollen allergies can cause sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and a foggy-feeling head, which leads to an inability to concentrate, focus and stay alert. They can also cause irritability, and even depression and anxiety.
Most seasonal allergies occur in the spring, summer and fall, but with the warming climate, many seasonal allergies have been extended into longer periods. People often take over the counter antihistamines for seasonal allergies, but for many people, taking allergy medication can actually contribute to dementia!
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Nonorganic Causes Of Rapidly Progressive Dementia
Pseudodementia, resulting from depression, occurs in patients who have a past history of major depression. There usually are signs that patients are severely depressed, and cognitive dysfunction, particularly on testing, is found to be the result of decreased effort. Many of the features of patients who have true dementia are seen in atypical psychiatric disorders, including personality disorders, conversion disorders, psychosis and malingerers, and a full assessment is required to rule out potentially treatable or organic disorders. These cases can have many of the features of a true dementia. Furthermore, psychiatric features may be an early symptom of many neurodegenerative conditions, including CJD, diffuse lewy body disease , corticobasal ganglionic degeneration , and others.
Reversible Health Conditions That Can Mimic Dementia
By: Cat Ebeling, RN, MSN-PHN, co-author of the best-sellers: The Fat Burning Kitchen, The Top 101 Foods that Fight Aging & The Diabetes Fix
If youve ever forgotten where you parked your car, lost your keys in your own house, or walked into a room and forgot why you went there, you are not alone. We all have days like that. But often as we get older, forgetfulness tends to cause more than just temporary anxiety. We sometimes jump to the conclusion that we are getting dementia or have Alzheimers disease.
Dementia and Alzheimers disease are words that strike fear into many of us. Growing older, losing our ability to remember, think, reason, speak, or care for ourselves is not the way we want to view our own aging or that of our loved ones.
There are many forms of dementia, including Alzheimers disease. Alzheimers itself does not have a specific test to determine its presence doctors merely rely on a cluster of symptoms to recognize it. Doctors often diagnose dementia as a generalized disorder that affects the brain causing memory loss, confusion, personality changes, and even physical manifestations.
Other symptoms of dementia of various types include:
short-term memory loss loss of sense of direction difficulty recognizing loved ones and familiar faces difficulties walking or moving around
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What Is The Treatment For Dementia
Treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia are limited. While there are medications available to try to improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, the effect of these medications is limited. Physical exercise has been shown to be of some benefit in helping to maintain cognition. Staying engaged and participating in social events may also be of some help. To date, no treatment which can reverse the process of Alzheimer’s disease has been identified.
Distinguishing Between Types Of Dementia
For physicians and families intent on pinning down a diagnosis, one major complicating factor is the existence of so many kinds of dementia. More than 50 conditions can mimic or cause dementia.
Alzheimers disease is by far the most common intractable condition. But other causes of irreversible dementia include blood vessel diseasevascular dementia), other degenerative disorders , slow-growing brain tumors, or infections of the central nervous system .
In some types of dementia, treatment will improve mental functioning, and in a small percentage, the dementia is completely reversible if treatment begins before permanent brain damage occurs. Thats why it is important to report to a doctor any signs of dementia as early as possible.
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Medications Often The First Suspect
Medications save lives and can be vital to the wellbeing of millions around the world. But all medications have possible side effects. For some people, especially older people, a prescribed medication may help the condition for which it is taken, but it may also have mental side effects. Combinations of several medications heighten this risk. People with dementia symptoms should have all medications checked by their primary physician, and possibly by a neurologist.
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A Condition That Can Fool Even Experienced Doctors
In fact, Mrs. M was suffering from delirium, at that time called acute organic brain syndrome that results in rapidly changing mental states, and causes confusion and changes in behavior. She returned to her previous healthy cognitive status very quickly after her eye patches were removed and her post-operative recovery continued.
The lesson I learned from her recovery was that delirium can fool even experienced doctors into misdiagnosing dementia, which is now called Major Neurocognitive Disorder . Confustion, disorientation, and memory impairment are signs of delirium that are shared with MaND.
Delirium looks very different, though, in other ways. It comes on rapidly, often after a medical or surgical event or toxic combination of medications. It is accompanied by shifting alertness, resulting in moments of sleepiness alternating with moments of agitation. Delirium is more often associated with visual hallucinations or psychotic delusions than MaND. And, most importantly, delirium can often be reversed once the cause is found and treated.
Its causes are many and include infection, metabolic disturbances, toxic medication reactions, withdrawal from alcohol, and the effects of head injury, just to name a few.
What makes this especially tragic is that distinguishing delirium from MaND is usually not too difficult and just requires careful attention to history, symptoms, physical and mental status examinations, and the results of common laboratory tests.
Key Points About Vascular Dementia
- Vascular dementia is a disorder characterized by damaged brain tissue due to a lack of blood flow. Causes can include blood clots, ruptured blood vessels, or narrowing or hardening of blood vessels that supply the brain.
- Symptoms can include problems with memory and concentration, confusion, changes in personality and behavior, loss of speech and language skills, and sometimes physical symptoms such as weakness or tremors.
- Vascular dementia tends to progress over time. Treatments can’t cure the disease, but lifestyle changes and medicines to treat underlying causes might help slow its progress.
- Surgical procedures to improve blood flow to the brain can also be helpful. Other medicines might slow the progression of dementia or help with some of the symptoms it can cause.
- A person with vascular dementia may eventually need full-time nursing care or to stay in a long-term care facility.
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What Conditions Can Be Mistaken For Dementia
There is a pertinent question that everyone especially the elderly should know the answer to and that is: what conditions can be mistaken for dementia?
This is because sometimes, a person can be scared that they are developing dementia because of the symptoms they have pointed to the onset of the illness.
However, when they go to the doctors for a diagnosis, it turns out that they do not have dementia, but another medical condition.
This is the primary reason why it is important to avoid self-diagnosis and always consult a doctor when you have dementia warning signs.
At times, a person may even have to seek a second and a third opinion.
Unfortunately, sometimes, it is the doctor who will give a misdiagnosis based on the symptoms that a person has.
There is a long list of curable or partially reversible medical conditions that share symptoms with dementia.
Here are some of the most common ones.
Unexpected Causes Of Cognitive Problems
Some of the medical conditions that can cause an elder to display dementia-like symptoms include:
- Certain prescription drugs can cause confusion, memory loss, irritability, low energy and other symptoms, especially if the dosage is incorrect.
- Depression does more than make people feel sad. It can have a negative impact on memory, focus and sleep. It may also cause a person to avoid social interaction.
- If the thyroid is producing too much or too little of the hormones it is responsible for, the condition can have a negative impact on how the body uses food. This can affect an elders mental and emotional health.
- Poorly managed or unmanaged diabetes can allow a person to go into a state called hypoglycemia in which the blood sugar is too low. This state can cause impaired coordination and difficulty in completing even simple tasks.
- Repeated interruptions in breathing while sleeping, often caused by airway issues, can deprive the brain of oxygen and cause behavior that looks like dementia.
- Lyme disease is caused by the bite of a tick that introduces a certain kind of bacteria into the body. The disease can affect short-term memory and cause a person to feel somewhat disconnected from the world around them.
- Low levels of B12 make it hard for the body to produce enough red blood cells and nerve fibers. This can cause confusion and disorientation.
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Thyroid Problems Can Cause Confusion
The thyroid secretes hormones that affect the whole body. When something goes wrong in this gland people can feel sluggish, confused and worn out. Thyroid problems generally develop slowly, so its not always easy to know when the problems began. If you are having vague symptoms that your doctor is having trouble pinning down, he or she may suggest a thyroid test. Thats generally a good call and could possibly uncover your problem.
How Is Vascular Dementia Diagnosed
In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, your healthcare provider may order some of the following:
- Computed tomography . This imaging test uses X-rays and a computer to make horizontal, or axial images of the brain. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
- FDG-PET scan. This is a PET scan of the brain that uses a special tracer to light up regions of the brain.
- Electroencephalogram . This test measures electrical activity in the brain
- Magnetic resonance imaging . This test uses large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to make detailed images of the brain.
- Neuropsychological assessments. These tests can help sort out vascular dementia from other types of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Neuropsychiatric evaluation. This may be done to rule out a psychiatric condition that may resemble dementia.
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Medications That Block The Effects Of Acetylcholine
Among the best-recognized cognitively dangerous medications are those with anticholinergic properties. This means that the medications block the effect of acetylcholine, an important brain chemical and neurotransmitter that becomes less plentiful in the aging brain. These medications have an impact on brain cells by occupying its receptor molecules, and can help people gain relief from symptoms of insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, or several other medical conditions. Also, many medications valued for their other effects have incidental anticholinergic properties. Among the clinically significant anticholinergic medications are medications such as tolteridine, often used to treat urinary incontinence. In addition, some antidepressants , antipsychotics, cardiac medications, antispasmodics, antivertigo medications, and antiparkinsonian medications have anticholinergic effects.
Unfortunately, the undesired consequences of anticholinergic medications can be serious. Dry mouth, dry eyes, constipation, or urinary retention may occur. The toxic effects of anticholinergic medications on the brain include confusion, memory disturbance, agitation, and even delirium.
Reversible Dementia: Is It Dementia
For a clinical diagnosis of dementia, deficits in memory and in at least one other cognitive domain must be documented, the deficits should interfere with occupational or social functioning, and there must be evidence of a systemic or brain disorder that may be the primary cause of the cognitive deficits . The American Academy of Neurology practice parameter recommends structural neuroimaging, which may include CT or MRI, and screening for depression, vitamin B12 deficiency, and hypothyroidism. Based on these criteria the screening for syphilis without risk factors is not justified. Neuroimaging screening evaluations are recommended to detect conditions such as subdural hematomas, cerebral infarcts, cerebral tumors, and normal pressure hydrocephalus .
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Conditions That May Be Mistaken For Dementia
By Ben Isaac 9 am on January 17, 2019
Memory loss, confusion, changes in personalitywhen an older loved one exhibits these signs, your first thought may be that he or she has dementia. However, the truth is that a person can show these and other dementia signs and symptoms but actually have another health issueone that, in many cases, is treatable, so its important to see a doctor right away. Here are some common conditions that may at first appear to be dementia.
Dementia As A Major Neurocognitive Disorder
Dementia is a neurological disorder which is very easily misdiagnosed as several other disorders by many doctors during the diagnosis. An acute organic brain syndrome or delirium is responsible for altering mental state causing confusion, memory impairment, disorientation, and behavioral changes, etc. These symptoms appear in dementia as well and hence can easily mimic the condition or cause misdiagnosis. Delirium is very different from dementia since it involves rapid onset after any surgical treatment or some medical ailment or even due to the toxic effects of some medications. In delirium, there is an alertness drift, changes in sleep patterns causing agitation, visual hallucinations, and psychotic delusions etc. which makes it entirely different from dementia.
Dementia slowly onsets and can be really a challenging problem. A proper diagnosis should be made through detailed understanding of the signs and symptoms, the past medical and family history and a thorough understanding of the patients condition. There are a number of medical conditions which mimic dementia and hence a thorough evaluation is necessary.
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Communicating About Dementia With Health Care Providers
Good communication with the primary care provider affects the well-being of the person with dementia as well as the well-being of the caregiver. Communicating your concerns clearly and describing the changes you may have observed will help guide the provider to investigate further. In some cases, you may find yourself âeducatingâ medical staff about your loved oneâs symptoms.
It is important that your concerns are taken seriously, and you are treated with respect and dignity. If you are not receiving the attention you need, you should communicate your concerns to the provider and request a referral to a resource in the community that specializes in the evaluation of people experiencing cognitive changes. The goal is to establish a partnership to both maintain the quality of health and to solve problems.
Frontotemporal Dementia Versus Alzheimers Disease
AD is the most common dementia in older people. Therefore, it is often one of the first diseases a doctor considers. But Alzheimers disease usually begins with memory loss, while FTD is typically a behavior or language disorder.
- The probability of AD is strongly affected by the age of the person showing the symptoms. The odds of having Alzheimers disease increase markedly the older you get, while the odds for FTD may decrease with age.
- FTD often begins with distinct behavioral changes while people with Alzheimers disease in the early stages tend to remain socially skillful despite their memory problems . In advanced AD, people generally have trouble managing their finances, show poor judgment and irritability, and may become equally difficult to manage as people with FTD.
- Apathy in AD patients is milder, whereas apathy in FTD patients is more pervasive and more often reflects a lack of concern for others or lack of initiative.
- People with AD usually have an early and profound difficulty learning and retaining new information. As the disease progresses, memory for new and old information is lost. These memory problems may lead to language problems as well, but the root is a problem remembering. In contrast, most mildly impaired FTD patients generally know the day or time and their location, and they are able to keep track of recent events. They may not test well, but that may be due to lack of concern or effort in the testing situation.
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