Pseudodementia is a condition with dementia symptoms that looks like or mimics neuro-degenerative diseases. There are many of them and these conditions can be reversed or cured in most cases with treatment and if diagnosed in a timely manner. Too often a person will experience memory or thinking challenges as a normal process of aging, or that it is just stress-related. Although this may be true, you are encouraged to monitor yourself and tell your family or a friend what you are doing, and ask them to help with observations so that you can document them. If you are concerned, the information you collect will help your doctor. You know yourself and so do your close family and friends. It is best to get checked out.
Let’s go over a possibility of pseudodementia:
Vitamin D2 & D3 Deficiency: The most common symptoms are muscle weakness, bone pain and depression. Other symptoms that often go unrecognized are mental status or dementia symptoms such as memory loss, mood swings, confusion, and difficulty with thinking and processing information. These are subtle symptoms and can easily be missed.
A study published in the August 2014 issue of Journal Neurology explained the dangers of deficiency of vitamin D. The list given included the risk factors with untreated symptoms leading to dementia, the Alzheimer type. There are other illnesses and diseases that could develop from lack of vitamin D but, for the purposes of this article, we are focusing on the changes with mental health and the risks of developing dementia, if not treated.
We derive our main source of vitamin D from the sun. Does this mean that West Indians are not at risk? Far from it. Why? Some say because of the rich pigmentation in the skin. A study questioned this as back in time, when many people worked outdoors, no issues of vitamin D were noted. Other studies were done and conclusions were that people with lighter to no pigmentation can receive five minutes of early morning sun exposure and receive sufficient amounts of vitamin D for the day while people with more pigmentation can tolerate 15 minutes of early morning sun exposure a day. So, what is the problem in these hot countries? UV rays?
People use more sun block and more clothes to hide their skin from the sun. Because of the changes in our environment, universe and ozone layers the five to fifteen minutes was considered to be efficient and safe. People with fairer skin should apply a light layer of coconut oil to protect their skin while allowing the sun’s rays to absorb. People who use sun block should allow the exposure first, then go into the shade and cool off, and then apply sun block half an hour before going back out.
Vitamin D is important to our health and brain-health. This condition can be treated, and symptoms reversed if found in time. When first experiencing mental and thinking changes, it is important to rule out deficiencies in this area before concluding it is a neurodegenerative condition.
Questions about dementia:
Q: I have been watching my mom for a year now and it seems she is forgetting more than usual. My siblings say it is just normal aging. How would we know and when should we get concerned enough to do something?
A: This is a person by person decision. However, we recommend checking it asap. Reason? It helps the monitoring process even if doctors find nothing at the time. We also encourage you to learn more about what is normal aging and what is not normal. If all is normal, it is still a good time for your mom to start exercising her brain power if she has not done so in the past. The brain is amazing and can improve at any age.
–By Regina Posvar
Regina Posvar is the current president of the Saint Lucia Alzheimer’s and Dementia Association and has been a licensed nurse for 25 years. SLADA is supported by volunteers and donations and aims to bring awareness and support by providing awareness public workshops, family support, memory screenings, the Memory Café, counselling and family training for coping skills and communication with persons living with dementia.