Dementia symptoms could be reversed as liver disease is misdiagnosed as the degenerative illness

Dementia symptoms could be reversed as liver disease is misdiagnosed as the degenerative illness

Pharmacies are now able to diagnose more illnesses

Sarra Gray

By Sarra Gray

Published: 02/02/2024

- 10:25

As many as one in 10 adults may have been misdiagnosed with dementia, according to new research

Cognitive decline thought to be dementia could actually be a result of liver disease, a study claimed.

In some cases, treatment of liver disease was found to reverse the symptoms of dementia.

Dementia causes cognitive decline including memory loss, difficulty concentrating, confusion and mood changes.

New research carried out by Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Medicine and Richmond VA Medical Center found a connection between dementia and liver disease.

Man and doctor dementia

Dementia may have been misdiagnosed in some cases


Researchers claimed it can be difficult to tell the difference between cognitive decline caused by dementia or caused by a form long term liver damage cirrhosis, called hepatic encephalopathy.

“This unexpected link between dementia and liver health emphasises the importance of screening patients for potentially treatable contributors to cognitive decline,” said lead author Jasmohan Bajaj, M.D., a gastroenterologist and expert in hepatic encephalopathy with the VCU Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health and Richmond VA Medical Center.

The study looked at the medical records of more than 177,000 U.S. veterans diagnosed with dementia but not cirrhosis.

The case studies were predominantly male with an average age of 78 and 10.3 per cent were found as very likely to have cirrhosis.

The research stated around eight per cent of veterans who have cirrhosis also have dementia and suggested those being treated for dementia should also be tested for liver diseases.

Some liver diseases can be effectively treated, which could reverse symptoms of cognitive decline.

This was found to be the case in two older men who were thought to have dementia and Parkinson's disease. They saw symptoms ease after being treated for hepatic encephalopathy.

One man saw such a dramatic improvement in his cognitive health that he began driving again.

The findings added this discovery could also apply to non-veterans with dementia, however further research is needed.

Bajaj added: “Early detection of liver issues allows for targeted interventions and opens avenues for addressing treatable factors contributing to cognitive decline.

Woman's hands dementia

Research found a link between liver disease and dementia


“The next step is to ensure that health care providers taking care of patients with cirrhosis as well as those with dementia are made aware of a potential overlap with hepatic encephalopathy, which is treatable.

“Routinely using the FIB-4 index to evaluate dementia could help a significant number of patients, families and physicians by providing an opportunity to treat and potentially reverse cognitive impairment brought on by liver disease."

This comes as a rare medical error caused some people to develop Alzheimer's.

It found five people in the UK developed the illness as the side effects of medical treatment given between 1959 and 1995.

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