Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder that causes a person’s cognitive functions to deteriorate in an escalating manner. It is the most common form of dementia and it has several stages. The pace of the disease and the magnitude of the symptoms may be different for each patient.

Early symptoms

Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be confused easily with old age forgetfulness. In the first stages, patients may have difficulty remembering recently learned information and completing simple life tasks, such as turning off the oven or attending an appointment. They also may have orientation problems, causing them to become confused or lost. This is because the disease affects the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory.

Other early symptoms may include not being able to remember the name of common objects, repeating questions or statements, having difficulty making decisions, and problems with visuospatial skills like judging distances.

As Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease: the symptoms worsen over time as neurological deterioration progresses.

Effects on personality

Alzheimer’s disease patients may start to experience mood changes and become depressed, aggressive, anxious, or anti-social even in the early phases of the disease.

As the disease advances, patients’ memory loss usually worsens and they may find it increasingly difficult to recognize the people around them. At the same time, they may become paranoid and invent scenarios to explain their losses. For example, they may claim someone is taking their possessions, or that they were  given wrong directions intentionally.

Some patients might experience delusions and hallucinations, in which case it is critical to seek medical help.

Late symptoms

Patients with advanced Alzheimer’s disease are unable to communicate with those around them and require assistance with all aspects of daily life, such as dressing, eating, walking, and maintaining personal hygiene.

They also may have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and lose considerable weight. Swallowing difficulties may cause aspiration pneumonia, the most common cause of death among patients.

When do symptoms begin?

Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease patients usually show the first symptoms in their mid-60s. A minority of patients may have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and start experiencing symptoms as early as their 30s. On average, Alzheimer’s disease patients survive eight to 10 years after the onset of the symptoms, but this is highly dependent on the patient’s age at diagnosis.

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Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.