Schizophrenia is an intellectual disorder that seems to terrorize the patient. A person with the disease often displays sudden mood changes, extreme agitation and even describe hearing voices in their head that plot against them. There are treatment options to lessen the symptoms, but schizophrenia is considered an incurable disease, which is why many people who suffer from this condition have a hard time finding work and keeping a job when they find one.
Josep Dalmau is a neurologist who recently presented research that shows that a newly discovered disease may have been masquerading as schizophrenia. The big difference, the newly discovered disorder is a curable one.
The disease is called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. NMDA is a protein in the brain that allows the neurons to communicate, sending signals throughout the body. Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis involves the body attacking the NMDA receptor and preventing these neurons from communicating as they should.
When the receptor is blocked, it alters a patient's behavior. The patient may slowly experience flu-like symptoms, but then they can quickly explode into the same agitation, paranoia and delusions experienced by a schizophrenic.
While inadequately functioning NMDA-receptors have been suspected as playing a role in schizophrenia, this disorder is different. Dalmau has been able to cure several patients in a relatively short period after the diagnosis such as a young Manhattan college student and a New York reporter.
Even when a disorder is curable, the patient often experiences the debilitating effects of the disorder to the extent that it affects their ability to work. Those with a disorder or combination of impairments that are expected to last over a year may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits -- something that can help them through a tough treatment period.
Source: The Boston Globe, "When the brain is under attack," Dr. Daniela J. Lamas, May 27, 2013