Nov 13, 2009

Is it really Alzheimer's? Are you sure?

Today, I received an email from a reader telling me about how her father was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's when in fact he was suffering from a brain tumor.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Many people assume that if an older person becomes forgetful and can no longer deal with some of the basic activities of daily living, he or she must be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This is often the case, but not always.

I often receive emails from someone telling me their loved one was misdiagnosed by a personal care physician.

I write repeatedly about the importance of getting a specialist involved when the primary doctor diagnoses dementia or Alzheimer's.

When a person receives a diagnosis of cancer they seek out an oncologist for treatment. The same can be said of a long list of diseases.

In the case of Alzheimer's, I am learning that it is not unusual for the personal care physician to act without consulting a specialist. I can only assume that this is caused by the demands of health care providers to keep costs down. Could you imagine a personal care physician trying to treat cancer?

There are a long list of diseases that can present as dementia. These include: tumors, infections, impaired spinal fluid, stroke, and too little or too much thyroid hormone.

I suggest you reveiw this article -- Is it Really Alzheimer's or Something Else? -- and then send it to anyone you believe could benefit from this information.

Is it really Alzheimer's? Are you sure?

If nothing else, your family member or friend, could ask their personal care physician how he ruled out all these potential causes of dementia like symptoms. If he hasn't, the doctor might get nervous and decide to do so -- immediately (I think many of you know the reason why).

Here are two specific examples that I wrote about previously.

The first included a diagnosis of  depression when in fact it was Alzheimer's.

James Smith: I'm 46 Years Old, I can't have Alzheimer's

The second is an example of a man that was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and finally ten years later was diagnosed with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH). He came back to life once the correct diagnosis came (see the article within the article). Imagine the elation when he came back to life, imagine the anger that he lost ten years of his life.

What is Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH)

There is no substitute for a neurological consult when Alzheimer's is diagnosed. None.  And, there is no substitute for an MRI, and serious, detailed testing.

You decide, it is worth the effort to be sure,

The Alzheimer's Action Plan: The Experts' Guide to the Best Diagnosis and Treatment for Memory Problems

Original content Bob DeMarco, Alzheimer's Reading Room