ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Many people believe that forgetfulness is the first sign of Alzheimer’s, but the truth is that a decline in cognitive function is part of normal aging. Especially for adults ages 50 to 65, if you think it is Alzheimer’s disease, we will explain why it’s probably not.
“It was terrible to watch him deteriorate before our eyes,” said Mary Mehl.
Mary’s husband, Joe, was declining mentally and physically.
Joe was in his mid-60s and Mary feared that she was losing him to Alzheimer’s. But a trip to the doctor proved it to be something else. Joe had normal pressure hydrocephalus or NPH, a completely reversible condition.
Joe is not the only one who fears that they are in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. Doctors say they are seeing a rise in patients worried about their memory lapses and fear that it is Alzheimer’s. Most of the time it is not. But if it’s not Alzheimer’s, what is it?
“Many different disorders can cause balance problems and dementia-like illnesses,” said Nestor Tomycz, MD, a Neurosurgeon at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
Some of the disorders can include NPH, adult ADD, sleep disorders, substance abuse and simply brain fog. If you are worried about memory loss, Dr. Tomycz told said,“See your primary care doctor and to check some basic, basic labs and to investigate it that way. But, if the symptoms aren’t improving, a neurologist should be involved.”
A recent study by St. Michael’s hospital in Toronto found that in autopsies of 116 patients who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, over 10 percent of them did not have Alzheimer’s. Other conditions or diseases were causing their dementia-like symptoms.
Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.
ALZHEIMER’S OR SOMETHING ELSE?
BACKGROUND: Slowing down mentally and physically is just a part of growing older, but Alzheimer’s is much more than that. The disease, discovered by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, makes brain tissue break down over time typically in people over 65. Symptoms include memory loss, trouble focusing, mood swings, trouble communicating, feeling confused, frustrated, and disoriented, and physical issues such as developing a strange gait. It is unknown exactly why certain people get Alzheimer’s, but the risk is much higher if it runs in your family. Its symptoms stem from two types of nerve damage: neurofibrillary tangles (nerve cells getting tangled) and when protein deposits build up plaque in the brain. There is a protein in the blood called apolipoprotein E that the body uses to move cholesterol and it also may be linked to Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately there is no cure, but there are some ways to help with symptoms. Medications that treat memory loss, behavior change, and sleep problems can keep symptoms from getting worse for a few years. Keeping the mind active with art and music improves day-to-day mood and behavior, and some people take supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, but it is not proven that it works. It is very important for Alzheimer’s to be diagnosed early on, but unfortunately it is often misdiagnosed.
THE STUDY: Lon White, M.D. and his colleagues performed brain autopsies (which is the only guaranteed way of diagnosing Alzheimer’s) on 400 men who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and only half of them had the brain plaques that signal the disease. 200 people were misdiagnosed. It has recently come to light that people with dementia could have an entirely different ailment and are not getting the treatment they need. Also it is difficult to determine what new medications and treatments are actually effective for Alzheimer’s if they are being tested on people who may or may not actually have the specific disease. There is another condition with symptoms that are almost identical to Alzheimer’s and it is curable: NPH.
NPH: Memory loss, decline in problem solving and speaking, and developing a strange walk are only a few of the symptoms that Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) has in common with Alzheimer’s. This condition is caused by a buildup of fluid in the brain and was discovered in the 1960s. In a survey of 166 doctors, it was found that 30% of them were unaware that NPH even existed. Many of the doctors had graduated from medical school before NPH became part of medical literature in 1965. NPH occurs when the brain’s natural system for draining and absorbing cerebrospinal fluid malfunctions, and the cavities in the brain enlarge and put pressure on the areas of the brain that control memory and problem solving. This can be solved through surgery where a thin tube is inserted into the brain to drain excess fluid. NPH can be detected by a MRI or CT scan, but oftentimes these scans are not even performed because the symptoms look just like Alzheimer’s. A completely curable ailment might go untreated so it is crucial to look at every option before assuming it is Alzheimer’s.
* For More Information, Contact:
Allegheny Health Network
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