Brain tumors and subdural hematomas are two brain conditions with symptoms very similar to dementia in that they can cause memory impairment, difficulty in communication, poor concentration, personality changes, problems performing routine tasks, social withdrawal and disorientation.
Typically, with a brain tumor or hematoma, the onset is more rapid and may also involve headaches, vomiting, seizures, incontinence and some gait and motor dysfunction.
The first step is to consult a physician and undergo testing to confirm a diagnosis. Some types of dementia are very treatable and/or reversible, and symptoms might not necessarily indicate Alzheimer’s.
Brain tumors can be cancerous or noncancerous and can result from a number of conditions. However, any type of brain tumor is a serious risk because of its invasive nature.
Some common symptoms of brain tumors include severe headaches, vomiting unrelated to any illness, stiffness in neck, acute intracranial pressure, behavior changes or rapid decline in cognitive ability.
There are no known environmental factors that are directly related to the development of brain tumors. Many inherited diseases, such as Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, multiple endocrine neoplasia and Type 2 Neurofibromatosis, may increase the risk of brain tumors.
A subdural hematoma, which is a clot of blood just beneath the outer covering of the brain, usually forms in conjunction with an atrophy of the brain and typically occur in those over 60. Most SDHs become very large before they are noticed because of few symptoms in the early stages.
Similar to brain tumors, symptoms of a subdural hematoma include headaches and difficulty recalling memories and may include confusion, physical weakness, impaired vision, nausea and vomiting. In the advanced stages, the condition can cause paralysis or a coma.
One of the biggest risk factors for SDHs is brain atrophy linked to a minor trauma, which oftentimes goes completely unnoticed. Other risk factors include alcohol abuse, previous tendencies for seizures and use of Coumadin or other blood-thinning medications.
Treatments for brain tumors and SDHs vary with the individual and the nature of the condition.
Cognitive impairment is always a cause for concern, and it is always important to fully understand and discuss with your family physician what is causing the symptoms.