by John Molseed
In the span of eight weeks, Dr. Denise Krivach, a former Abbott Northwestern radiologist, went from making retirement plans in the woods of Montana to being barely able to care for herself. Doctors in Montana diagnosed her with dementia. But that didn’t seem right to her. When she arrived at Mayo Clinic in 2014, doctors ruled out dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. “Alzheimer’s doesn’t run like that,” said Dr. Andrew McKeon, a Mayo Clinic neurologist. “It runs over a matter of years or decades.” Krivach was diagnosed with neurological autoimmune encephalopathy. It is an underdiagnosed condition in which her own immune system was attacking her brain, causing nerve interference, swelling and a loss in cognition. The diagnosis gave Krivach treatment options that not only stopped her cognitive decline but reversed it. Mayo Clinic is on the forefront of autoimmune research — the study of immune disorders that affect the brain or nervous system. Leading researchers in the field are discovering new antibodies or protein anomalies in nerve cells that lead the immune system to attack or interfere with nerve function.
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Context: Andrew McKeon, M.B., B.CH., M.D. is a Mayo Clinic neurologist. Dr. McKeon's research interests include autoimmune neurological disorders, paraneoplastic neurological disorders and movement disorders. Sean Pittock, M.D. is a Mayo Clinic neurologist and director of Mayo Clinic's Center for Multiple Sclerosis and Autoimmune Neurology and of Mayo's Neuroimmunology Research Laboratory.
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