Dementia Doesn’t Always Mean Alzheimer’s
Dementia is any memory loss or thinking problem caused by changes in your brain. Alzheimer’s is just one type. Your memory also can be harmed by many other health issues, such as a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or a buildup of fluid on your brain.
If you notice symptoms that have you concerned, see a doctor right away. They’ll give you a thorough exam that may include taking a sample of your blood for testing, brain imaging, and neurological testing to figure out what’s going on with your health and get you help.
Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease
There has been a lot of interest in the topic of Lyme disease and dementia in the medical world.
This is after several high-profile cases in the media pointed out to experts that there is a need to consider Lyme disease as one of the possible causes of dementia.
We can describe Lyme disease as a bacterial infection that comes about when an infected black-legged tick bites a person.
This tick is also referred to as a deer tick.
Early detection of the disease is vital because taking antibiotics cures the illness.
Regrettably, when it is not detected early enough, the infection grows worse, weakening the immune system and resulting in an array of inflammatory responses.
Association Of Spirochetes And Alzheimer’s Disease
That dementia associated with cortical atrophy and microgliosis also occurs in late stages of Lyme disease caused by Borrelia burgdorferi , suggested that various types of spirochetes in an analogous way to T. pallidum might cause dementia and brain pathology similar to AD.
Various Borrelia and Treponema species from the family Spirochaetaceae are responsible for diverse human diseases. From 36 known Borrelia species 12 cause Lyme disease or other borreliosis, which is transmitted by the bite of infected ticks. Relapsing fever is caused by nearly 20 species of Borrelia recurrentis and is transmitted by ticks and lice . Near 60 diverse Treponema species were identified in subgingival pockets in human periodontal diseases . These periodontal pathogen spirochetes comprise Treponema denticola, Treponema socranskii, Treponema pectinovorum, Treponema amylovorum, Treponema lecithinolyticum, Treponema maltophilum and Treponema medium. Treponema vincentii causes necrotizing fusospirochetal disease called Vincent angina. Many other Treponema species are present in the human genital mucosa. From the family Brachyspiraceae, two species of the genus Brachyspira , i.e. B. aalborgi and B. pilosicoli are responsible for human intestinal spirochetosis . Spirochetes of the genus Leptospira, family Leptospiraceae, cause human leptospirosis.
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Searching For The Cause
However, when he became utterly incapable of programing their household burglar alarm and videocassette recorder, Nicole could no longer deny that something was seriously wrong. Russ was an accomplished computer expert and electrical engineerand now he was flummoxed by two tasks hed flawlessly carried out for years.
Over her husbands objections, she took him to doctors for evaluation. All the physical testsblood pressure, cholesterol, etc.were normal. Nicole also wanted him checked for Lyme disease, since shed heard that the infection can cause brain fog and memory issues. Furthermore, as a lifelong outdoorsman, Russ had pulled many ticks off himself through the years, though hed never noticed a bulls-eye rash.
But her husbands Lyme test came back negative. And, after a battery of cognitive assessments showed serious deficits, eventually the doctors settled on the diagnosis of Alzheimers disease.
Being Patient: What Made You Think In The First Place What Could Possibly Have Caused These Symptoms Of Alzheimers And To Search For The Underlying Cause Of His Illness
Nicole Bell: It just didnt make any sense. Every marker that I could find, I had him tested and he tested negative. Its just the way Im wired. Im an engineer and Ive worked with lots of really complex systems. Theres always a reason. Theres always a root cause.
He was very healthy. He had no comorbidities. He ate a Mediterranean diet. He exercised. All the things they say to do for brain health he was doing them. It didnt seem to make sense and I kept looking for answers.
Before we got the diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimers, Lyme disease was my first thought. My husband was a hunter. He was constantly in the woods. He did all the landscaping in our property. I had personally pulled dozens of ticks off of him, and he had lived all over the country, including the northeast, southeast, the west, all over. I had him tested at the first doctor that we went to and he tested negative. We got thrown off the trail and that was when we went to neurology and got the diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimers.
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Can Lyme Disease Cause Dementia
There have been reports of Borrelia burgdorferi , the bacterial agent of Lyme disease, triggering primary dementia, such as Alzheimers disease. Researchers who examined the records of 1,594 patients with dementia found that 1.25% had a positive intrathecal anti-Borrelia antibody index , specific for neuroborreliosis. They concluded, Pure Lyme dementia exists and has a good outcome after antibiotics. 1
In a retrospective study, entitled Secondary dementia due to Lyme neuroborreliosis, Kristoferitsch and colleagues describe several case reports of patients diagnosed with dementia-like syndromes due to Lyme neuroborreliosis or Lyme disease that help address the question can lyme disease cause dementia.2
Rapid improvement with antibiotic treatment
The authors case report featuring a 76-year-old woman demonstrates how Lyme disease can cause dementia-like symptoms. The patient developed progressive cognitive decline, loss of weight, nausea, gait disturbance and tremor over a 12-month period. She was referred to a neurology clinic for evaluation.
Three months earlier, the woman had been diagnosed with tension headaches and a depressive disorder. Medications, however, did not improve her symptoms.
LNB was diagnosed when further CSF examinations disclosed a highly elevated Bb-specific-AI indicating local intrathecal Bb-specific antibody synthesis, Kristoferitsch writes.
Woman admitted to psychiatric ward with severe dementia
Touched By Lyme: Of Alzheimers Lyme And Family Caught In The Squeeze
Nicole Bell had a life that many people would envy. She had an exciting, high-powered job, a handsome, smart, and loving husband, two beautiful children, and a great big house.
In fact, things pretty much seemed perfectuntil one day, when it all began falling apart.
Her husband Russ started acting in a very peculiar manner. Forgetting to pick up the kids from school and daycare. Misplacing his wallet several times in a week. Getting explosively angry with his wife and children over trivial matters.
But Nicole could always find a plausible explanation for ithe was stressed, he was depressed, he missed his former job.
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Being Patient: What Led You To Think That His Symptoms Could Be Caused By Lyme Disease
Nicole Bell: When I realized he was having cognitive issues, on Google. One of the things that came up was Lyme disease. Another thing that came up in my searches was exposure to heavy metals.
We did a lot of shooting. One of our biggest hobbies was sporting clays and you get exposed to a lot of lead. He did a lot of reloading of lead pellets. I was worried that maybe his exposure to lead was leading to cognitive decline.
Does Alzheimer’s Make The Brain More Susceptible To Infection
The blood-brain barrier protects the brain by controlling what substances can pass from the blood into brain tissue. In Alzheimer’s disease, the blood-brain barrier is damaged, particularly in the brain region affected by Alzheimer’s.
Evidence suggests that inflammation, the Alzheimer’s hallmark amyloid protein and the ApoE4 gene, which are all linked to Alzheimer’s disease, can contribute to the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier. Once it has been weakened, bacteria, viruses, and other harmful substances can get through into the brain more easily. This may explain why certain viruses and bacteria, such as herpes and spirochetes, are more common in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
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The Case Of A Retired Defence Intelligence Agency
The Washington Post also reported a case from an officer who has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
After surviving Leukaemia, the 81-year man was told that he had dementia. Sandra Boodman, the reporter, wrote that doctors were convinced that the retired agent was battling a fatal type of dementia that was rapidly progressive.
This led him to become delusional, moody, childish, and confused, something that he was not when he was a competent man.
This was a wrong diagnosis.
Later on, doctors discovered that he had Lyme meningoencephalitis when he started having challenges with walking, had tremors in his arms, and was also suffering from incontinence.
After a positive diagnosis for Lyme disease, he immediately started antibiotics for treatment and went on to make a full recovery.
Common Causes Of Dementia And Alzheimer’s Disease
Many things may contribute to Alzheimer’s, so let’s look at a few of them. Most people point to genetics when they diagnose Alzheimer’s, but its only linked in 1 to 5% of cases. Since the turn of the 20th century, Alzheimer’s saw an explosion in growth in developed countries, but not undeveloped countries, leading some researchers to believe this is a new disease phenomenon with strong ties to environmental factors.
Excess copper in the diet has been linked to neuronal toxicity and zinc deficiency can cause neuronal damage. This copper has been hypothesized to come from copper pipes in drinking water. In mice, it has been shown that increased zinc diets show significant cognitive benefit.
Another significant link shows that injuries, especially in the spinal cord, leads to brain cells dying off and an increased production of glial cells. Glial cells are helpful in defending the brain from bacteria and toxins, but too many of them can cause scarring that inhibits healthy neuron growth. Contrary to popular belief, the brain never really stops developing, as adult brains contain stem cells. Through a process called neurogenesis, these cells are constantly building neural tissue, even in old age and can even repair itself after trauma such as a stroke. Unfortunately, these glial cell scars are what seem to prevent the brain from recovering in the long term.
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Why And What To Do When Antibiotics Fail
Then there is Memantine, an NMDA receptor antagonist, that regulates glutamate activity, a chemical transmitter associated with learning and memory. Cells damaged by AD and other neurological disorders release large amounts of glutamate, allowing excess calcium to enter cell membranes. Given enough time, this chronic overexposure to calcium will accelerate cell damage. Memantine works against this chain reaction by blocking some NMDA receptors.
On average, the five approved Alzheimer’s drugs are effective for about six to 12 months for about half of the individuals who take them. To say the least, this is not very effective.
The important question is what is impacting the neurons and neurotransmitters in the brain. As you will see, infections release neurotoxins that impair neurotransmitter’s abilities to bind to receptor sites. Other epigenetic risk factors such as other infections such as mycotoxins, environmental toxins, spinal structural issues and heavy metal toxins are proven to impact the function of these neurons as well. When these factors are all happening at the same time you have a perfect storm. So no matter how many piano lessons, puzzles and memory games you play if these factors are present, your risk and deterioration of neurons will likely accelerate.
Let’s take a look at what researchers are finding and some of the ways treating the immune system has helped with symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
Misdiagnosis And Delayed Treatment
The fortunate ones are able to catch Lyme within the first few weeks when the appropriate antibiotics have a much better chance of working. Unfortunately, Lyme disease is often missed and the infection is allowed to take hold, disrupting the immune system and causing a cascade of inflammatory responses.
Even when Lyme is suspected and a blood test is ordered, the common Western Blot test often results in false negatives while Lymes co-infection antibodies are rarely even looked for, although they may even be more common than Lyme itself! Its not uncommon for someone with Lyme to receive multiple negative test results before achieving a proper diagnosis. This leaves thousands of undiagnosed patients sick and confused, spending months, years, or even decades wandering around from doctor to doctor, trying to find out what is wrong with them. Ineffective testing methods combined with inadequate insurance coverage mean that people with Lyme often encounter financial ruin before a cure.
After 3-6 months in the body, Lyme has taken hold of the immune system and becomes difficult to eradicate with antibiotics alone. A study published in 2012 showed that Lyme disease has tenacious survival skills. Inside the body, the Borrelia organism forms a biofilm, which allows it to constantly rearrange its structure, hide, and resist environmental conditions such as antibiotics.
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As Part Of Our Livetalk Series Being Patient Spoke With Nicole Bell Author Of What Lurks In The Woods: Struggle And Hope In The Midst Of Chronic Illness About Her Husbands Unexpected Alzheimers Diagnosisand How Lyme Disease Became Be The Prime Suspect
For Nicole Bell, her husband Russ Bells diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimers was inexplicable. Russ was young and otherwise fit and healthy. He exercised, ate the Mediterranean diet and wasnt genetically predisposed to the disease.
In Nicoles book What Lurks in the Woods: Struggle and Hope in the Midst of Chronic Illness , she chronicles her and Russ journey to uncover the root cause of his early-onset Alzheimers and their search for effective treatments for what might have triggered his illness: Lyme disease.
Despite decades of research, the answer to the underlying cause of Alzheimers remains elusive. But scientists are increasingly recognizing the complexity and heterogeneity of the disease: There are likely multiple factors that can trigger the beginnings of Alzheimers, and rather than being one singular disease, and it probably consists of different subtypes.
So, researchers have been exploring the diseases possible causes with fresh eyes. While the search for a definitive link between infectious microbes like Borrelia burgdorferi and Alzheimers has been inconclusive so far, experts are calling for more attention and resources devoted to exploring whether bacteria and viruses could lead to Alzheimers in some patients.
Being Patient spoke with Bell about her husbands early symptoms of Alzheimers and why she suspects that Lyme disease could have caused her husbands symptoms of dementia. The following is an excerpt of the LiveTalk.
Analysis Of The Association Of Spirochetes And Ad
Based on the substantial data available in the literature, contingency tables were used to analyze the strength of the association between spirochetes and AD. Fisher test was used to assess whether the difference between the occurrence of spirochetes in AD and controls is statistically significant. Odds ratio and 95% confidence interval values were also computed. If in the control group the number of positive cases was 0 in order to calculate OR and 95% CI 1 positive control case was added .
In those studies where all types of spirochetes were detected employing neutral techniques , spirochetes were observed in the brain in 90.1% of AD cases and were absent in controls without any AD-type changes . The difference was significant . When cases with mild or moderate AD-type changes were also included as preclinical stages of AD, 91.5% of the cases were positive . The difference remains significant when those cases were also included where spirochetes were analyzed in the blood .
B. burgdorferi was observed 13 times more frequently in the brain in AD compared to controls . The low prevalence of Lyme disease compared to AD is well reflected by the lower frequency of B. burgdorferi compared to the higher, more than 90% frequency of all types of spirochetes detected with neutral techniques or the highly prevalent periodontal pathogen spirochetes.
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Being Patient: What Type Of Treatments Did Russ Receive Afterwards
Nicole Bell: He had Lyme and two co-infection. In addition to Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the bacteria causing Lyme. He also had Bartonella henselae and Babesia duncani, both of which are common co-infections in Lyme disease and can lead to cognitive issues.
We went on a very broad spectrum course of antibiotics, and we had lots of ups and downs. He did start presenting with joint pain and other things later. A lot of those symptoms started getting alleviated with the antibiotic treatment. There were times when we were very hopeful. He started to do better. His cognitive performance seemed clearer.
But I think over time, we really just couldnt get ahead of some of the decline that occurred. I had mentioned heavy metals earlier, and some of the treatment for that led to additional challenges. I liken it to a forest thats on fire and youre trying to quench a portion of it. We couldnt get ahead of it and he continued to decline cognitively.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Case Study Pathology Is Characteristic Of Dementia With Lewy Bodies
The fresh brain weighed 996 g and appeared atrophic Coronal sections through the left cerebral hemisphere and brain stem revealed mild enlargement of the lateral ventricle, particularly the temporal horn. The substantia nigra was normally pigmented or nearly so. Microscopically, nigral and cortical Lewy bodies, were seen with hematoxylin and eosin stain . Immunohistochemistry for -synuclein showed numerous immunoreactive Lewy bodies and fibers in substantia nigra, hippocampal formation and neocortex, Figures 4CE). IHC for hyperphosphorylated tau revealed intense staining of many limbic neurofibrillary tangles and neuropil threads , and of occasional neurofibrillary tangles in neocortex, but senile plaques were extremely rare, and each contained only a few fibrils . H& E showed prominent thickening of small blood vessels in gray and white matter, extensive mineralization of pallidal vessels, and rare microglial nodules in the hippocampal formation. Immunohistochemistry for Iba-1 , CD68 , and CD163 showed moderate numbers of activated microglia and large numbers of macrophages in hippocampal formation and spinal cord . In summary, we see DLB accompanied by features of Alzheimer’s disease, a common presentation.
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