In a recent Letter to the Editor published in the New England Journal of Medicine, two doctors discussed their finding that 22-35% of people with pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency) have the diagnosis missed — because the B12 blood test to detect the condition is not reliable!
Connect that dot to this one: B12 deficiency is a common cause of mental confusion in folks over 60. In other words, many people are slapped with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) or dementia when what they REALLY have is an easily treatable disease — in this case, pernicious anemia. In fact, a recent study looking at brain tissue at autopsy showed that half of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease didn't even have it! They had another cause of their dementia, which often would've been treatable
I recommend that people who've been given a diagnosis of AD or dementia should have a thorough evaluation for underlying, contributing factors that a doctor can treat — and possibly reverse. (A few other conditions in seniors that are often mistaken for dementia are hypothyroidism, depression, dehydration, nutritional deficiencies, depression, infections, and drug side effects.)
When this type of evaluation and treatment is done, the improvement is often remarkable. The evaluation should be conducted by a holistic physician who knows how to treat the patient (and not just the results of a blood test), and who can take the time to safely wean the patient off of any unneeded medications.
Because of the type of finding featured in the letter, which points to a near epidemic of misdiagnosis in age-related mental problems, I am beginning to offer two-hour consultations (by phone or in person) for the evaluation of Alzheimer's and dementia.