It’s no secret that science and medicine are just getting started when it comes to understanding the human brain – its capabilities, how it’s affected by disease, and how to help when our brain health takes a turn for the worse.
Still, it’s pretty scary to realize that doctors could diagnose a woman with dementia – a totally irreversible and devastating condition – only to realize later that she lost 5 years of her life struggling with an illness that could have been corrected.
The medical report states that the woman presented with strange “altered behavior” that led to her dementia diagnosis. The changes appeared gradually, things like refusing cook and keep her house or person clean, and even walking naked through her neighborhood.
After her sister witnessed her lose consciousness and suffer a seizure, the woman underwent blood tests and a CT scan, both of which showed no abnormalities, and an EEG showed nothing other than a generalized slowing. Since her seizures continued while she was hospitalized, she was sent home with medication.
She continued to show psychotic symptoms, “talking and shouting about the spirits of dead relatives whom she could see clearly and who told her not to take her medication,” according to her sister.
The 61-year-old also refused to eat meals prepared by her family, sure they were trying to poison her, and when she left home alone she would often get confused and distracted, unable to find her way back.
5 years on, the Nova Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry diagnosed her with a vitamin B12 deficiency. The vitamin, found in fish, meat, dairy, and eggs, is vital for healthy brain function and forming red blood cells. Doctors there believed her deficiency was bad enough to damage the fatty layer around her spinal cord and trigger the psychotic symptoms.
And then she was better.
“The patient had a remarkable neuropsychiatric recovery after vitamin replacement and psychopharmacological management,” says the report.
The woman was treated with vitamin B12 supplements and an anti-psychotic medication, the combination of which eliminated both her psychosis and her aggressive behavior.
“She became oriented in time and space, her speech became coherent and logical, and her functional status returned to what her relatives considered to be normal. She could now cook, help around the house, go out shopping and be entirely independent in daily activities.”
Though her response to the deficiency isn’t common, the authors of the report do believe that doctors should have considered the possibility when she originally began suffering from symptoms.
On the upside, it’s nice to know that your brain can recover, even after years of being left to basically rot from a vitamin deficiency.
So, you know…all of you non-meat, non-dairy, non-egg people, take heed – you definitely need to make sure you get your vitamin B12 somewhere.