Dementia diagnosis

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Referring to Mark Entwistle’s excellent report on dementia (TheSouthern, September 15), it is worth pointing out that dementia is not a single medical entity. Alzheimer’s disease and multi-infarct dementia (also called vascular dementia) are two major forms. While Alzheimer’s dementia is rare before 50 years, vascular dementia may be associated with high blood pressure.

A number of conditions, uncommon but treatable, can cause a confusional state, including ypothyroidism (underactive thyroid and early alcoholic dementia). Making the proper diagnosis of dementia more difficult, there are medical conditions which mimic dementia.

These other medical conditions may co-exist with dementia. A person suspected to have dementia should have – at least – his or her blood pressure and thyroid function tested and depression ruled out: a small but helpful first step towards stemming the “dementia diagnosis crisis”.

Dr R. B. Shukla

consultant physician in medicine for the elderly (retired)