Don’t Mistake Drug Side Effects for Alzheimer’s Signals

As a person who has lost family members to Alzheimer’s and has real concerns about succumbing to the disease himself, I was gratified to read the article in the Wall Street Journal about how dozens of drugs have side effects that look like Alzheimer’s but aren’t.

Over 100 different drugs have side effects that can mimic Alzheimer’s in some people, according to a superb article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.

The Journal lists antihistimines, sleeping pills, painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs, anti-psychotic drugs, cholesterol drugs, older antidepressants, incontinence drugs, acid-reflux drugs, blood-pressure drugs, tranquilizers, heart drugs, stomach drugs, and Parkinson’s drugs as all possible sources of symptoms that can be analyzed as Alzheimer’s symptoms.

“I have had people referred to me with a clear history of dementia and when I started to peel back the medications, they were much better,” Gary Kennedy, chief of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y. told the Journal’s Melinda Beck.

Experts as well as primary care physicians are often fooled by the symptoms generated by these drugs, according to the chief of biological psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

Autopsy studies of nearly 1,000 dementia patients at 30 top centers supported by the National Institute on Aging from 2005 to 2010 found that between 17% and 30% of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease had been misdiagnosed and had other conditions.

So, if you or a loved one are experiencing mental fogginess, loss of memory or other ‘typical’ Alzheimer’s symptoms, take heart. Don’t be too hasty in jumping to the Alzheimer’s conclusion. Check out all the medicines currently being prescribed as their side effects may be leading you down the wrong path.

To clarify: Dementia is not a disease but a group of different diseases characterized by the gradual worsening of cognitive abilities. Dementia is seen across all ethnic groups and increasingly so with advancing age. Among 65–69-year-olds, about 2 percent are afflicted, with this figure doubling for every five years of age. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases.


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Filed under Alzheimer's, brain, False Alzheimer's Signals

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