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Medical Conditions that Mimic Dementia

Friday, June 30th 2023 10:00am 6 min read
Dr. Jessica Peatross dr.jess.md @drjessmd

Hospitalist & top functional MD who gets to the root cause. Stealth infection & environmental toxicity keynote speaker.

Dementia is a condition that affects cognitive functioning and is often associated with aging. It is a progressive disease that can lead to memory loss, confusion, and other cognitive impairments. However, there are several other medical conditions that can be confused with dementia. In this article, we will discuss seven medical conditions that can be mistaken for dementia, including depression, delirium, normal pressure hydrocephalus, chronic alcoholism, vitamin deficiencies, brain tumors, and Parkinson’s disease.


Depression is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed. However, depression can also cause cognitive impairments that can be mistaken for dementia. Symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, and lack of concentration can be similar to those experienced by individuals with dementia, but are often caused by depression. According to a study by Wilson et al. (2019), depression is associated with cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia. The study found that individuals with a history of depression had a higher risk of developing dementia compared to those without depression.

It is important to note that depression and dementia can coexist, and depression can be a risk factor for developing dementia. Therefore, it is crucial to diagnose and treat depression as early as possible to prevent cognitive decline and other complications. Treatment options for depression include medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes such as exercise and a healthy diet.


Delirium is a condition that causes acute confusion and rapid changes in behavior. It is often caused by a medical condition such as an infection, dehydration, or medication side effects. Delirium can be mistaken for dementia because the symptoms are similar, including confusion, memory loss, and difficulty with attention and focus. However, delirium is a temporary condition that can be reversed with prompt treatment.

According to a study by Inouye et al. (2014), delirium is a common complication in older adults and is associated with an increased risk of adverse outcomes such as functional decline and mortality. The study found that prompt recognition and treatment of delirium can improve outcomes and prevent complications. Therefore, it is important to distinguish delirium from dementia and other cognitive impairments to provide appropriate treatment and prevent further complications.

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