Disorders That Can Mimic Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Alzheimer’s disease is that dreaded condition under the umbrella of dementia illnesses that is most feared by patients.  More than four million United States citizens are affected by this slow-progressing illness for which no known cure has been found.  This disease attacks brain functions, in particular the center of the brain that deals with memory, communication, and decision-making.  Symptoms may be:

Memory impairment that becomes worse over time

A duration of sickness that may be anywhere from three to twenty years from the first symptoms

Gradually apparent bouts of disorientation with respect to time and location, inability to make sound judgments, being given to rash decision making, and misplacing items in strange locations

As the illness progresses, the ability of take care of oneself is greatly diminished and patients will need assistance with such basic tasks as feeding, toileting and personal hygiene.

While these symptoms may not all be present all the time, they frequently do go together.

Yet did you know that there are some illnesses that may actually mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s?  It is true!  Take a look at these diseases that may cause you or your loved one to fear the dreaded Alzheimer’s:

Hypocalcaemia, which is a term denoting and overage of calcium in the bloodstream.  The causes may be either a tumor secreting the electrolyte or hyperparathyroidism.  One of the effects of a calcium overage in the blood is that of severe injunction of memory capability, which is similar to the loss of memory function experienced in Alzheimer’s patients. When hypocalcaemia is treated, either by surgery or through medication, the Alzheimer like symptoms diminish as well.

Vascular dementia, which is the destruction of brain tissue caused by one or multiple strokes, may sometimes be misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s.  The brain tissue is destroyed because blood vessels in the brain are blocked with tiny blood clots, which are a result of the strokes.  CT scans of the brain may be used to diagnose this condition for certain, and anytime that Alzheimer like symptoms are suddenly apparent, it would be wise to check for such alternative problems.

Neurosyphilis, which is the term for unchecked syphilis that has spread to the brain, may often present with Alzheimer like symptoms.  For example, the patient may suddenly experience confusion, memory loss and have a hard time communicating, yet only a blood test specifically for syphilis will be able to confirm this diagnosis.  Unfortunately, if the disease has been left unchecked for this long, it is uncertain how many measures can be taken to curtail its effects once it reached the brain.

Huntington’s disease, an inherited brain disorder, sometimes shows among other symptoms that of severely disturbed memory and inability to speak coherently.  Yet since this disease usually rears its ugly head in the mid-life years, it is not as often mistaken for Alzheimer’s as some other diseases; however, since a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease also sets on as early as the patient’s late thirties and early forties, it is entirely possible to misdiagnose either illness.

In rare cases, severe malnutrition, especially a lack of the B-vitamins, may mimic the effects of Alzheimer’s disease with respect to memory loss, communication ability, and judgment.  The only way to rule out this nutritional deficiency is through blood tests looking specifically for the vitamin B concentration in the blood.

As you can see, there are many illnesses that may look and feel like Alzheimer’s disease, when in fact they are not.  While some may be related, others are entirely separate.  If you feel you are suffering from the symptoms that usually indicate Alzheimer’s disease, do not give in to the temptation of putting off your doctor’s visit.  Instead, go ahead and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.  Similarly, if you are the loved one of someone who suddenly displays Alzheimer like symptoms, do not simply ignore the warning signs, but instead insist on her or his making a doctor’s appointment.  In the best case scenario, your loved one may suffer from another illness that is easy to treat.  In the worst case scenario, your loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease will be properly diagnosed and you can both begin to devise a plan of care that will allow her or him to live with dignity and enjoy a high quality of life.