Dementia and dementia-like symptoms

Dementia and dementia-like symptoms

Though dementia is most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s, it does not have one specific cause and there is no ‘cure’ as it is caused by different diseases. However, there are several other illnesses that can also cause dementia-like symptoms which can be reversed given the right diagnosis and treatments.

What is dementia?

The first thing to understand is that dementia is not a disease. Dementia is a general term used to describe a group of symptoms that affect mental ability, most often caused by neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. These symptoms can vary immensely, as they can affect any part of the brain and have effects ranging from memory loss to hallucinations. Some symptoms are specific to certain types of dementia, for example hallucinations are typically an indication of Lewy Body Dementia.

Alzheimer’s accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases and is irreversible. As a general rule, any dementia caused by a progressive neurodegenerative disease is also irreversible. However, dementia-like symptoms can be occasionally caused by certain lifestyle choices, diseases and deficiencies, and these can sometimes be reversed.

Causes of dementia-like symptoms that can be reversed

The following diseases and deficiencies cause dementia-like symptoms, but can all be reversed if diagnosed early and treated appropriately.

Alcoholic dementia

Long-term alcohol abuse can cause Alcohol-Related Brain Damage (ARBD), which can lead to alcoholic dementia. It’s typically caused by the toxins in alcohol damaging nerve cells, but another common cause is a thiamine deficiency. The symptoms of alcoholic dementia include problems with judgement, lack of sensitivity and socially inappropriate behaviour. It’s typically treated by initially withdrawing alcohol and stabilising their condition with sedation, replacement of lost fluids and salts, and thiamine injections. Subsequently, with good support and remaining alcohol-free, there is a strong chance to make a partial or full recovery.


Hypothyroidism is caused by a malfunctioning thyroid gland, which slows the metabolism down. This can cause mental processes to slow down as well, resulting in poor concentration and bad memory. Since these are both signs of early dementia, hypothyroidism can be easily misdiagnosed. It’s reversible with daily levothyroxine tablets to replace the hormone that the body does not produce.

Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) is a disorder that causes a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Symptoms include difficulties with walking, dementia and urinary incontinence. NPH is one of the few causes of dementia that is reversible if diagnosed early. A surgical procedure called a cerebral shunt can help to drain excess fluid to relieve the symptoms, with some people making an almost complete recovery.

Contact Better Healthcare today

Currently, there is no cure for dementia as it is caused by various diseases, but some illnesses such as Alcoholic dementia, Hypothyroidism and Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus have dementia-like symptoms but can be reversed given the right diagnosis and treatments. The road to recovery is often long and those suffering from those symptoms may need some form of care help.

At Better Healthcare, we have a variety of carers who can help your loved one as they recover. Whether you’re looking for a reliable live-in carer or flexible home carer, we can provide the right carer who will give you peace of mind.

Get in touch on 0800 668 1234, or contact your local office:

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