Sorting out Symptoms of Disorders

by Bill Jamison
(Lubbock, TX)

How do you sort out symptoms of dementia, old age, other mental disorders?

Doug's Reply: Physicians look at several factors when attempting to establish the origin of a person's mental deficiency:

- Medical history / personal profile
- Written exams
- Lab tests
- Diagnostic imaging

For example, history of head injury (e.g., car accident, career in boxing or football) points to trauma as a possible cause of the symptoms.

Similarly, a history of strokes, substance abuse, brain infections (e.g., meningitis), seizures, or family history of mental disorders, etc. are important clues. True dementia (such as Alzheimers) is uncommon before age 65, so age is also a factor.

Lacking any medical history of this sort, the doctor may order written tests such as the MMSE (Mini-Mental State Exam), AMTS (Abbreviated Mental Test Score), or CASI (Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument). These tests are an easy way to help screen for mental status and certain pathological conditions.

Blood tests can be run to rule out treatable causes. Some examples: Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, thyroid-stimulating hormone, full blood count, renal function, and a few others.

CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans can sometimes help with diagnosis as well. PET scans in particular can be very helpful in diagnosing Alzheimers.

As you can see, diagnosis can be straightforward or tricky depending on the individual.

Best regards,

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May 30, 2010
Jim, from one older person to another
by: Anonymous

First of all there is nothing great about getting older. The greatness has to be generated by you. Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you have not committed.

Everyone want to live long but no one wants to grow old.

Back in the days, before the world became more complex and less comprehensible, and life was simpler values counted for more. Those who reached twilight years, secure in the knowledge that they still commanded attention, respect and affection and that though they were well past their prime, all that they had given their best for was still important and so were they.

The author of this article is right. The first thing that a physician does when suspected depression is present is rule out all physical ailments. I know that from first hand experience.

If all is well physically then we can address the mental. The symptoms are the same but grief is a normal reaction to loss. There is no set timetable for grief. If the grief extinguishes all signs of joy, laughing at a good joke, brightening in response to a hug, appreciating a beautiful sunset, it may be depression.

Sometimes there is medication induced depression. Make a list of all medications being taken and bring it to the family physician. He or she can help you determine if any of the prescriptions are causing depression symptom.

You know in our generation mental illness or depression was a skeleton in the closet no one talked about it, it didn't exist. Those in our generation that are depressed have to come into the 21st century and realize that counseling and therapy is a good thing,everybody's doin' it.

Is it dementia vs. Alzheimer's disease

I can't resist: if you lose your keys and then find them and go on about your business there is nothing wrong with you. If you lose your keys, find them and don't know what to do with them then you show signs of Alzheimer's disease.

Forgetfulness, memory loss, repeating questions
Problems with spatial awareness such as impairment in drawing skills or getting turned around.
Word finding problems
Changes in personality and emotional state
Impaired decision making and problem solving
Decreased insight.

There are many types of dementia: Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia or multiple strokes, Binswanger's disease, Parkinson's disease with dementia, Toxic-metabolic dementia, Infectious dementia, depression dementia, and then the dementia the author mentioned, trauma, brain cancer, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, inflammatory brain conditions and obstruction of the cerebrospinal fluid.

Memory loss: the author covered most of the variety of diseases that may include memory loss.

Oh, and stress kills. It really does. Here is the flow chart: stress = preoccupation = loss of focus = danger to yourself. I know this from personal experience.

Then get a second opinion.

May 17, 2010
Additional Comments on This Topic
by: Bill Jamison

Douglas, thanks for your great reply to posting on memory disorders.

I have experienced some of many of the causes that you mentioned in your comments. It's easy to see that each individual will have to sort out their particular case.

As for myself, I'm age 71, am Bipolar having been on lithium for 27 yrs., am I Recovering Alcoholic with 27 years sobriety, have heart disease with a 6 way Bypass in 1992, and on heart meds, diet, and exercise since.

This past Thurs., I went to a neurologist who gave me an MRI on my brain, and had me spend the night in their Sleep Clinic with the idea being that lack of sound sleep can effect the memory.

I would appreciate replies from others on this topic.

Bill Jamison
Lubbock, TX

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