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10 Types of Dementia That Aren't Alzheimer's and How They're Diagnosed

10 Types of Dementia That Aren't Alzheimer's and How They're Diagnosed: Page 3

By Dr. Harvey Gilbert, MD
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8. Huntington's Disease

Huntington's disease is an inherited progressive dementia that affects the individual's cognition, behavior and movement. The cognitive and behavioral symptoms of dementia due to Huntington's include memory problems, impaired judgment, mood swings, depression and speech problems (especially slurred speech). Delusions and hallucinations may occur. In addition, the individual may experience difficulty ambulating, and uncontrollable jerking movements of the face and body.

9. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is caused by a deficiency in thiamine (Vitamin B1) and often occurs in alcoholics, although it can also result from malnutrition, cancer which have spread in the body, abnormally high thyroid hormone levels, long-term dialysis and long-term diuretic therapy (used to treat congestive heart failure). The symptoms of dementia caused by Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome include confusion, permanent gaps in memory, and impaired short-term memory. Hallucinations may also occur.

10. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
Dementia can be due to medical illness, medications and a host of other treatable causes. With mild cognitive impairment, an individual will experience memory loss, and sometimes impaired judgment and speech, but is usually aware of the decline. These problems usually don't interfere with the normal activities of daily living. Individuals with mild cognitive impairment may also experience behavioral changes that involve depression, anxiety, aggression and emotional apathy; these can be due to the awareness of and frustration related to his or her condition.

The health care professional you meet with will need to know the symptoms the patient is experiencing, their duration, frequency and rate of progression. The doctor will do everything he or she can to make the patient comfortable while diagnosing dementia, which includes addressing the patient's fears regarding the types of dementia and condition. Diagnosing dementia requires a full review of the patient's health care, family history and medication history. This includes evaluating the patient for depression, substance abuse and nutrition, and other conditions that can cause memory loss, including anemia, vitamin deficiency, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, thyroid disease, infections, cardiovascular and pulmonary problems. The patient must also undergo a physical exam and blood tests in order to determine which types of dementia the patient may be suffering from.

Not every doctor is familiar with the complexities of dementia diagnosis, so you will need to find a doctor who is experienced at diagnosing dementia types. Currently, there is no single test that proves Alzheimer's, although it is possible to achieve 90% accuracy. However, we may have difficulty in discovering the true underlying cause. In patients with advanced findings of brain dysfunction, diagnosing dementia is fairly straightforward. But in patients with some early findings of diminished brain function, the diagnosis and its type is seldom clear. Following are some of the approaches that are commonly used in determining types of dementia.