Symptoms of Alzheimer’s DiseaseEn Español (Spanish Version)
Alzheimer’s disease progresses slowly, and changes take place gradually over time. People can live with Alzheimer’s disease for 3-25 years, although the average duration of the disease is about 8-10 years. In general, changes can be characterized in three phases.
Early Phase: Subtle changes occur, but the problem is sometimes hard to pinpoint. More often, family members recognize these changes rather than the patients themselves. Common changes may include:
- Forgetfulness and attempts to hide frequent forgetting
- Misplacing things
- Getting lost while driving
- Loss if interest in hobbies
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to recall words
- Decrease in sentence complexity
- Problems with mathematical calculations
- Getting lost in familiar surroundings
- Difficulty with tasks that require fine motor ability, such as putting a key in the keyhole or buttoning a shirt
- Difficulty in dealing with daily life tasks, such as managing finances, tending to household tasks, maintaining personal hygiene
- Repeating questions and stories
- Nonsensical wordy speech
- Naming difficulties
- Depressed mood
Middle Phase: Impairments in memory and mental functioning become more obvious. Long-term memory may still be intact, but short-term memory fails. Other changes include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Becoming less sociable and less aware of the feelings of others
- Needing help in making decisions
- Needing assistance with bathing, grooming, dressing
- Forgetting one’s own past history of personal events
- Personality changes, such as sudden mood shifts, anger, worry, or fearfulness
Advanced Phase: Abilities decline dramatically. Changes include:
- Inability to use language
- Becoming easily disoriented
- Walking with a shuffle
- Frequent falls
- Showing minimal emotional response
- Immobility and pain
- Weight loss and inability to swallow
- Agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, and mood changes
- Difficulty sleeping
Alzheimer’s Association website. Available at: http://www.alz.org/.
National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.nia.nih.gov/.
Last reviewed April 2007 by Roshni N. Patel, MD
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