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Dementia – FIVE conditions with similar signs to Alzheimer’s – how to tell the difference

Dementia is the name given to a group of symptoms linked to an ongoing decline in brain function, according to the NHS.

Symptoms include memory loss, confusion, mood changes and difficulty following conversations.

But, many treatable diseases and conditions have symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia.

“People who are confused and easily forget things don’t necessarily have dementia,” said medical website WebMD.

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria entering the urethra – the tube urine flows through.

The infection can sometimes spread to your bladder or kidneys.

“In some people, especially those of advanced age, UTIs can cause a sudden onset of symptoms that look like Alzheimer’s,” said WebMD.

“You may get confused, upset, sleepy, or have trouble paying attention. Some people hallucinate – believe they see or hear something no one else can.”

The best way to check if you have a UTI is to have a urine test.


The bodies of diabetes patients find it difficulty to naturally balance the amount of sugar in their blood.

If sugar levels drop too low – a condition known as hypoglycaemia – the body doesn’t have enough energy to work as it should.

“If it’s severe, you can get confused doing even a basic daily task.

“You also can become clumsy, appear drunk, or maybe even faint.”

Lyme disease

Tick bites can lead to lyme disease, a deadly condition that’s caused by a bacteria.

If the bacteria stays in the blood for long periods of time, it can impact patients’ short-term memory.

Some lyme disease patients report struggling to follow conversations, and daily tasks require more effort.

Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 works to keep the nervous system healthy, according to the NHS.

A deficiency in the vitamin can cause irritability, changes in the way you think and behave, and even a decline in mental abilities, the NHS said.


Depression can make it more difficult to focus on everyday tasks.

Patients may sleep too much or too little, and may not want to spend as much time with friends or loved ones.

“People with Alzheimer’s also can experience these things, but a physical exam and a conversation about your symptoms should help your doctor make the right diagnosis,” said WebMD.

For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or visit a local Samaritans branch.


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