Dementia or something else? The 3 conditions that can be mistaken for dementia

Dr Hilary issues warning about missed dementia diagnoses

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Dementia is a life-changing diagnosis. In the early stages, dementia can be difficult to spot, with many different signs and symptoms that can easily be mistaken for another condition.

As well as this, symptoms usually begin mildly and progress slowly, making them more difficult to spot as you age.

There are also no reliable tests, such as blood tests, that can confirm a dementia diagnosis.

As dementia is much more commonly diagnosed in older generations, this presents another challenge.

If you are suffering with symptoms that could be dementia, you should arrange an appointment with your GP urgently.

Mild cognitive impairment

Mild cognitive impairment refers to a set of symptoms rather than a particular overall illness.

Mild cognitive impairment can result in memory loss, trouble with thinking and focussing, and poor language recall.

While these are all symptoms of dementia, these symptoms are not as severe as dementia.

Anxiety

Anxiety is common, but serious and long-lasting anxiety can present a real problem for those suffering.

Many anxiety symptoms also occur in dementia patients, such as restlessness, poor concentration, disturbed sleep and overall low mood and irritability.

Symptoms such as poor concentration can make following conversations difficult, which is often mistaken for poor memory.

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Poor concentration

Thyroid problems can cause symptoms also found in dementia patients.

An overactive thyroid can cause restlessness and anxiety, whereas an underactive thyroid can cause changes to mood, concentration and memory recall.

Other thyroid related conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome, underactive pituitary gland and porphyria can also be confused with dementia.

Dementia can also exist alongside conditions with similar symptoms.

According to Bupa, more than nine out of 10 people with dementia have another health condition.

For example, just because someone has dementia, it doesn’t mean they can’t also have a thyroid problem.

If someone does have dementia and another condition, the other condition might be missed if any symptoms are just attributed to dementia, so it’s worth speaking to your doctor to get a comprehensive diagnosis.

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