Very often symptoms that look like those of Alzheimer's disease turn out to be caused by completely different factors. Doctors have pointed out numerous factors that can create such symptoms.
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Hormone deficiencies
- Brain disorders
- Prescription medications including anti-histamines, anti-anxiety drugs, pain killers, sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, blood pressure drugs, heart drugs, acid-reflux drugs, tranquilizers, stomach drugs, Parkinson's drugs
- Cholesterol lowering Statins
- Fluid buildup in the brain or normal pressure hydrocephalus
- High levels of iron, lead and copper
- Urinary tract infections
- Herpex simplex virus
There is a new PET scan that can detect amyloid protein buildup in the brain. A positive result cannot confirm Alzheimer's since some people have amyloid plaque but do not get Alzheimer's. However a negative result will rule out Alzheimer's so that other factors causing the Alzheimer's symptoms can be looked for.
Usually simply stopping the medication can cause the cognitive symptoms to disappear. For patients with fluid buildup in the brain, an MRI and spinal tap can reveal the condition and a shunt implanted surgically will correct the problem. In autopsy studies of almost 1000 dementia patients, it was found that upto 30% did not have Alzheimer's.
In a study published in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology, it was found that almost 40% of patients had Alzheimer's when autopsied even though they were not diagnosed with Alzheimer's when living.