With the increasing rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia, it is understandable that one would be worried at the first sign of symptoms. However, there are over 100 disorders that mimic the symptoms of dementia. “Some of these conditions are not serious, but they’re often missed or misdiagnosed in seniors,” says P. Murali Doraiswamy, coauthor of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan and Chief of Biological Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. “Caught early enough, they may actually be reversible.”
Here are common disorders that can be mistaken for dementia:
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH): This can be caused by a buildup of spinal fluid in the brain and can be mistaken for dementia because common symptoms are problems with thinking and memory and a lack of concentration. Others include urinary incontinence or a frequent need to urinate and a distinctive gait problem.
Medication: As we age, our bodies metabolize and eliminate medication less efficiently, causing a build-up of drugs, which can lead to memory glitches and other similar side effects of Alzheimer’s.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): UTI’s are often missed in seniors because they do not show the typical symptoms of high fever or pain. Instead, the bacteria in the bladder builds up, leading to infections that interfere with the brain’s ability to send and receive signals. This can cause memory problems such as confusion, delirium, dizziness, agitation, even hallucinations.
Thyroid Disease: 30 million people over the age of 50 have thyroid disease and don’t even know it, according to the American Thyroid Association. Too much or too little of the thyroid hormone may trigger dementia-like symptoms.
Vitamin B-12 Deficiency: Some people become unable to absorb vitamin B-12 and develop what is called pernicious anemia. As a result, nerve damage occurs, as well as confusion, personality changes, irritability, depression and forgetfulness.
Diabetes: Your body needs a certain amount of glucose to keep it running and too much or too little can rob the brain of the energy it needs. The result of this is memory problems, confusion, irritability, and inattention.