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Alzheimer's Disease

Treating Dementia with Aricept

10/25/2006

Question:

My 90 year old father in law has suddenly developed confusion, and it is worsening rapidly. He was diagnosed with the skin condition Bullous pemphigoid 2 years ago, but it has not been managed well and he suffers severe symptoms without relief. He has also been diagnosed as diabetic, vitamin b deficiency, low blood platelet count, and last week, a low red cell count. He had a CT scan 1 month ago, no strokes seemed obvious. He has also recently had trouble swallowing at night, doesn`t sleep, and wakes up with what was once described as "crazy dreams" but now he suffers from confusion he can`t get over easily anytime he sleeps or naps. His primary doctor prescribed Aricept yesterday. Does this all fit with Alzheimer`s? It doesn`t fit the pattern of others I have known. What type of doctor will look at the whole pattern and not just individual symptoms? Will the Aricept be helpful if the dementia is not caused by Alzheimer's? This is difficult to deal with as he lives 200 miles away from us. Thank you

Answer:

There are many complicating factors in your father’s story, so it is impossible to make a diagnosis with the information available. It seems like he should see both a gerontologist for his multiple medical issues, who can coordinate his care as well, and a neurologist specializing in dementia to optimize dealing with his issues. Aricept has been shown to be helpful in treating a number of other forms of dementia, so if he can tolerate the medication, it still might be helpful, even if he doesn't have Alzheimer’s disease.

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Response by:

David Q Beversdorf, MD David Q Beversdorf, MD
Formerly
Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurobehavior and Neurology
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University