Some Dementias Are Reversible, Making a Proper Diagnosis Crucial

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by Ray Burow |

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Some dementias are reversible. Now, that’s something we don’t hear every day but need to, right? Unfortunately, the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, isn’t reversible, but it’s important to understand that not every dementia leads to the mind-altering and life-changing disease that up to 5.8 million Americans and their families live with each day.

Ruling out Alzheimer’s disease

I’ve stressed over and over again in this column the cruciality of a proper diagnosis, most often as it relates to Alzheimer’s disease. Yes, a correct diagnosis places an Alzheimer’s patient on the right track for receiving the necessary care and medications to help maintain a healthy lifestyle in their condition.

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Overcoming Barriers to an Early Diagnosis in Alzheimer’s, Dementia

Defining dementia

An early diagnosis could help keep the disease from progressing very quickly. However, diagnosis by a competent health professional is equally imperative for a person who is experiencing dementia symptoms unrelated to Alzheimer’s. Their symptoms could be reversed if the diagnosis points to something other than Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia encompasses a wide range of health conditions. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these are “caused by abnormal brain changes” that trigger a decline in cognitive abilities. Thinking skills become impaired enough to interrupt a person’s ability to function, even with normal daily activities. Behavior, emotions, and relationships are affected. Basically, something’s off.

Reversible non-Alzheimer’s dementias

If you or a loved one are exhibiting signs of dementia, the following culprits may be in play. Consider the following and consult a physician before assuming the symptoms are the first steps in an Alzheimer’s journey.

Medications

Over-the-counter medications could affect mood and behavior. Your primary care physician can order bloodwork to determine if you are over or undermedicated. Additionally, different medications and even vitamins and supplements can interact with each other. If dementia symptoms ensued following a new medication, it’s worth checking out. Also, weight loss or weight gain can affect how medications are absorbed through the body. Medications may need adjusting if you or a loved one have experienced either. However, this is something that only a doctor can determine. Adjusting your own medications can have negative and even life-threatening results.

Narcotics and alcohol

Consumption of illegal drugs or excessive alcohol can lead to dementia symptoms. Speak with a mental health professional or substance abuse counselor if addiction is an issue for you or a loved one. Couple this conversation with a visit to your primary care physician to get to the bottom of the problem. The longer you put it off, the less likely symptoms will reverse, as abusing alcohol and taking illegal narcotics can cause brain damage.

Poor nutrition

Failing to properly feed yourself can lead to dementia, or at least its symptoms. Our bodies rely on good nutrition to produce energy for bodily functions, including brainpower. A lack of essential vitamins can lead to low blood sugar, which affects brain function. Folate and vitamin B12, for instance, are essential nutrients. Examine eating habits and seek help from a nutritionist if your primary healthcare provider finds vitamin deficiencies following bloodwork.

Health conditions

If you or a loved one are confused and finding it difficult to navigate normal daily activities, another health condition could be the cause of ensuing dementia. For example, heart or lung disease can prevent enough oxygen from reaching the brain, which of course is crucial.

Thought processes and emotions can also be affected by hormonal changes. Malfunctioning thyroid and parathyroid glands can create dementia symptoms. Also, don’t be surprised that infections in the body can do the same.

Dementia symptoms caused by each of the conditions above can often be reversed, but again, diagnosis is the first and most crucial step, just as it is in developing a plan to combat Alzheimer’s disease.

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Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.

Comments

William Corp Sr avatar

William Corp Sr

All the encouraging breakthroughs are dealing with early onset Alzheimers. When will we hear about a cure or breakthroughs for those with later symptoms of Alzheimers?

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Ray Burow avatar

Ray Burow

William,

I understand your frustration because I've often wondered the same thing. My mother was diagnosed with the disease and, without a cure, passed away several years later. However, I am encouraged that we're getting much closer to a solution. Better medications have come to market since my mother was diagnosed in 2002, and each step moves us closer. Even back then, my mother was enrolled in a clinical trial. The medications she prescribed helped keep the disease from progressing very quickly. Her cognitive decline would have been much quicker and more profound without diagnosis and treatment.
Additionally, funding for Alzheimer's disease has increased, and it lagged significantly behind in research funding compared to other conditions at one time. Please, take heart. I believe medications will improve for people in the mid to later stages of Alzheimer's disease, and eventually, a cure will appear.
In the meantime, we'll keep hope alive, right?

All the best!
Ray

Reply
Carol Rice avatar

Carol Rice

This reaffirms what my physician told me at diagnosis. But most people just assume I have Alzheimer's when I say dimentia. My diagnosis is dimentia. I appreicalte you reaffirming my understanding of the various forms of dimentia.

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Ray Burow avatar

Ray Burow

Carol,

I am glad that you found the article helpful. Misunderstandings make a diagnosis more difficult, I am sure. Education is the first step in caring for yourself, right? It's great that you seem to have a doctor who will help you through the diagnosis and next steps to live your best life with dementia.
Thank you for being a part of this community.

All the best going forward!
Ray

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