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Diseases that Mimic Dementia…But Are Treatable – part 2

Dementia is a fairly broad category that can include a number of different manifestations and/or causes.  But the truth is – as I discussed in my post last week – that a number of other medical conditions actually can mimic Alzheimer’s specifically, or dementia generally.  Read on to see the dementia-like symptoms that can come from problems with other organs of the body.  The good news is that the conditions in these other organs actually can be treatable, so it is important to get a clear diagnosis from your loved one’s provider if they show signs of dementia.  Here are three culprits to investigate if you see dementia-like symptoms in your loved one…

  1. Heart disease understandably affects a person’s circulation, and that, of course, is considered a problem in itself. But when the heart is not pumping effectively, other organs are getting a poor supply of oxygen.  Or there can be other vascular issues like severe restrictions in blood flow owing to strokes of varying degrees, and the brain is one of the first organs to respond to the shortages.  Be aware of any dementia-like symptoms in your loved one that can be a warning to get them to a cardiologist instead of a neurologist.
  2. Lung conditions also can impair oxygen to the brain as well as the rest of the body. As with the circulatory issues of the heart, impaired oxygen supply can affect cognitive processes and memory, resulting in possible misdiagnoses of dementia.  If your loved one has a history of breathing disorders, what appears as dementia could actually be an exacerbation of the underlying lung condition.
  3. Kidney and liver diseases can induce dementia-like symptoms, because the body is not clearing waste from the blood system if one or both of these organs is affected. In such cases, the brain may be the proverbial canary in the coal mine that can alert your loved one’s medical provider to these other systemic malfunctions.  Clear up the liver or kidney issues and the brain is back to working order.

Each of these three conditions arguably are problems in their own right, but they also cascade into other issues of which dementia symptoms may be a part.  But there are three more in the list I will add next week – there actually are even more than that.  If you can guess one of the three in next week’s list, I will send you a free copy of my book on dementia that is linked in the next paragraph.  Please send your answer to and I will let you know if you are correct.  I’ll ask for your address also so that we can ship the book to you.   More to come.

Charlotte Bishop is a Caregiver Coach, an Aging Life Care Advisor, a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia. 


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