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Karen Josephson, MD
Ask the Expert Doctor

February 2nd, 2008
My mom has been forgetting a lot of things lately. How do I know if she has dementia or some type of medical condition causing the memory loss?

Although Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia in the U.S., there are many reasons why someone’s memory can decline and some of these causes can be treated.  A thorough evaluation by someone who specializes in memory impairment is the first step – this could be a neurologist, psychiatrist, or a geriatrician.  The evaluation will include testing for delirium (acute confusion due to infection, medication, acute illness), depression (which is sometimes associated with poor memory), Vitamin B 12 deficiency, thyroid abnormality, metabolic abnormalities (abnormal glucose and calcium, kidney and liver failure), progression of chronic diseases (poor oxygenation due to lung disease, heart disease, anemia).  Imaging the brain is often helpful in determining if there is a tumor, stroke, or increased intracranial pressure.

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