What are the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease?

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Answered by: Mary, An Expert in the On Signs and Symptoms Category
Signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an often misdiagnosed and misunderstood sickness. It is about more than just forgetting names and faces. This affliction of the brain is responsible for a gradual decline in an individual’s ability to learn, reason, make their own decisions and carry out daily activities. To date, this most widely known form of dementia has no known cure.

Not an Affliction of the Old

Alzheimer’s disease used to be thought of as an “old person’s affliction.” That is not the case. Individuals in their 40s and 50s can fall victim to AD. There are two forms of Alzheimer’s: early and late onset, which is more common. Late onset AD usually affects those over 60 and is unlikely to be linked to genetics. Those suffering from early onset show signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease before reaching 60. This form of AD is responsible for less than 10 percent of all cases. It does, however, progress more rapidly and affects multiple family members.

Aging Versus Alzheimer’s

Forgetting where you left your car keys is probably a sign of aging. Not remembering what those keys are used for may be a sign of a more serious problem. Unlike the expected lapses in memory that come with getting older, Alzheimer’s sufferers have more instances of forgetfulness than most persons over 60. These individuals also have trouble processing and retaining new facts or remembering the names of familiar persons and things.

Ten Warning Signs

Ten warning signs have been identified to assist in determining whether an individual’s difficulty remembering is attributed to age or a precursor to Alzheimer’s. They include: loss of memory that affects the performance of everyday activities; difficulty performing familiar acts, such as brushing one’s hair; language problems that result in forgetting words or creating new ones; being confused about time and place; impaired judgment; unable to think abstractly; difficulty placing objects in their proper location; sudden mood swings; changes in behavior or personality; and lack of interest in performing once-enjoyed activities.

Symptom-Free Stages

There are specific signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's for each stage of the disease. Those in the first stage show only a slight decline in cognitive functioning and memory and may, in fact, have no noticeable symptoms. Stage 2 sufferers also exhibit only minor cognitive decline. At the same time they might have trouble recalling common words and expressions or where they have placed things like car keys or eyeglasses.

Stages Three and Four

Stage 3 produces difficulty concentrating. Individuals aren’t able to remember words or names of people they recently met. They also misplace valuables; have limited reading comprehension; can’t make plans or organize; and act inappropriately in public. Stage 4 features moderate cognitive deterioration. In this stage, persons can’t recall recent events; have trouble solving mathematical problems; are withdrawn socially; and don’t have many personal memories.

Stage Five

This stage of AD is identified by a severe decline in cognitive functioning. Sufferers need help choosing the right clothing; forget where they live and/or their telephone number; and are uncertain about where they are, the season of the year and the current day of the week and date. They can remember their name and the names of family members and can eat and use the bathroom on their own.

Stage Six

The most serious cognitive decline occurs in this stage. Individuals can identify familiar faces and know their own name. They do, however, need help dressing, bathing and with some elements of personal hygiene; wander or get lost; exhibit changes in behavior; and may form irregular sleeping patterns. Stage 7 of the disease—or the “late-stage”— is the most severe. Sufferers are unable to react to their surroundings, communicate verbally or be in command of their actions. They slowly become unable to walk, sit up or raise their head. It becomes hard to swallow, muscles stiffen and reflexes become irregular.

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