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Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Alzheimer’s is a neurological disorder that results from damage of nerve cells in the brain. The damage includes shrinkage (atrophy) and the eventual disintegration of brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the leading causes of dementia. It primarily affects the memory function of the brain. As a result, one of the key Alzheimer’s symptoms is memory loss. In the initial stages, the patient may recognise the signs and symptoms of the illness, but as the disease progresses, the cognitive function declines. When that happens, the affected patient’s family members, friends, and the doctor are more likely to notice the symptoms.

The discovery of early Alzheimer’s symptoms helps manage the condition and prevent it from gradually progressing and interfering with your daily life. Normally, Alzheimer’s occurs in people aged over 65 years. Due to this age factor, forgetfulness may seem like a result of ageing. But some markers like the inability to perform daily tasks because of memory loss and declining cognitive function are specific signs of Alzheimer’s. It is best to get the patient checked in such cases to get early medical attention.

Early Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Early symptoms of the disease start surfacing after the completion of the preclinical stage, where the formation of Alzheimer’s causing protein structures – amyloid plaques and tau tangles takes place. The early signs of Alzheimer’s include basic forgetfulness, which may reoccur after varying interval periods. The occurrence is subtle at first but becomes highly evident as the disease progresses. Some of the early Alzheimer’s symptoms include:

  • Trouble Recalling Recent Events

Recent events like an encounter with a person, learning a new name, coming across a new phrase, etc., typically get lodged as short-term memory moments in our brains. But with Alzheimer’s, there is a disconnection in this function, which causes the inability to recall recently learnt information.

  • Poor Judgement

Due to the significant effect of Alzheimer’s on the cognitive function, patients may find it challenging to make decisions. Generic tasks like recalling the right words or phrases in a conversation, managing a budget, and performing basic tasks can seem unusually difficult.

  • Mood Swings

As the control over concentration and comprehension abilities get limited, signs of irritability, confusion, anxiety, and fear may surface. They are typically not extreme and occur momentarily in the mild stage but become prominent in the later stages as the disease progresses

  • Organisation Problems

As a result of poor judgement, Alzheimer’s also leads to organisation problems. Patients suffering from the condition may experience trouble with planning and organising tasks, regardless of whether they are simple or complicated. They may also experience difficulties organising and communicating their thoughts, which causes delayed responses during conversations.

  • Misplacing things

Memory loss can cause patients to lose their common, everyday items such as their glasses, keys, and other possessions. They may also have difficulties recalling where they placed such items for safekeeping and struggled to find them later. As the disease progresses, the patient may get irritable due to their declining cognitive function.

  • Losing Track of Information

Like recent events, Alzheimer’s also causes patients to lose track of multiple pieces of information processed in a day. Normally, the brain is capable of remembering various details if it is not disturbed by thoughts. But with Alzheimer’s, this basic functionality gets affected as brain cells deteriorate and eventually stop functioning.

Moderate Alzheimer’s Symptoms

By the time a patient reaches the next stage following their Alzheimer’s diagnosis, self-awareness of symptoms gradually declines. Caregivers, family members, and doctors are in a better position to notice the signs of cognitive decline. Moderate symptoms can last for two to ten years, making this stage the longest for patients. While the signs and symptoms are more or less similar to the mild stage, they are more pronounced. As such, the patient’s family members should not confuse the symptoms of memory loss with ageing. Common moderate symptoms include:

  • Increased Confusion

In the moderate stage, the patient’s judgement ability progressively declines, making them feel more confused than usual. Patients may struggle with recalling specific events, dates, and places. They may also mistake friends and family members for strangers.

  • Less Social Engagement

Amygdala, a ‘social area’ in the brain gets affected in the mild cognitive impairment or moderate stage of Alzheimer’s. Consequently, feelings of isolation and boredom set in and affect social engagement. Managing this symptom is of utmost importance to cope with Alzheimer’s. Management is possible through participation in social groups, book clubs, or other areas the patient finds interesting.

  • Short Attention Span

Alzheimer’s disease interrupts the natural thought process and brain functions associated with concentration. It also attacks the hippocampus, a part of the brain where new memory is stored. Such disruption makes it difficult to hold on to a train of thought.

  • Dysfunctional Sleep Pattern

Our body is accustomed to a circadian rhythm, which is an internal process that regulates the 24 hours sleep-wake cycle. In Alzheimer’s, cellular changes take place in the brain which affects the circadian rhythm. As a result, the sleep hormone, melatonin, gets affected and patients face difficulty in falling or staying asleep at night.

  • Personality & Behavioural Changes

The decaying of brain cells is one of the most prominent signs of early dementia, which later develops into Alzheimer’s. A considerable effect of such internal, cognitive disintegration is the decline in neurological function. Hence, the way a patient acts or behaves can change significantly and their family members may notice changes in their behaviour and personality. For instance, patients may get upset easily, feel depressed, develop apathy, experience delusions, etc.

  • Wandering

Memory problems and confusion can make one feel nervous in a crowded area if they have Alzheimer’s. The search for familiarity and comfort in such situations can lead to thoughtless wandering. The same response is possible when the patient is alone and suddenly remembers something and goes to look for it.

Severe Alzheimer’s Symptoms

In the last stage of Alzheimer’s, called the survival period, the symptoms become severe and prove detrimental. During this stage, caregivers must provide round-the-clock care and supervision to avoid any mishaps affecting Alzheimer’s patients. As the patient is mostly unaware of the symptoms by this stage, caregivers need to pay special attention to the following signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Communication Issues

Comprehension and thought-forming skills reach the stage of decline when the symptoms become severe. Hence, a patient with Alzheimer’s struggles to communicate properly. They may be able to form a few words and phrases, but may find it challenging to converse coherently.

  • Seizures

When the two proteins in the brain, the beta-amyloid and tau form plaques and tangles, respectively, they affect cell-to-cell communication. The abnormal communication between cells causes them to become hyperactive, leading to epileptic seizures. As per a research report by the National Centre for Biotechnology Medicine, approximately 10-22% of Alzheimer’s patients experience unprovoked seizures.

  • Hallucinations

Hallucinations commonly occur in the last stage of Alzheimer’s. The reason is complex changes in the brain that make the affected people hear and see things that have no basis in reality. In extreme cases, hallucination episodes may also be followed by paranoia or delusions.

  • Loss of Bowel and Bladder Control

Human beings feel the urge to urinate or pass a stool when the brain cells trigger a response of fullness in the small and large intestines, respectively. As Alzheimer’s causes the brain cells to die, the communication between neurons and nerves in other parts of the body gets affected. The outcome of this irregular brain function is loss of bowel and bladder control.

  • Weight Loss

In the later stages, patients with Alzheimer’s develop a loss of appetite and find it difficult to swallow or chew. Lack of food due to such abnormalities triggers weight loss. Additionally, the sense of vision and smell also gets impaired as the disease progresses, which causes distractions while finishing the meal. The body does not absorb the nutrients properly due to sensory non-responsiveness which is another factor that influences weight loss.

  • Susceptibility to Infections

The disrupted neurological system affects the immune system in the body. Hence, when Alzheimer’s affects brain cells, the immune response takes a hit. Also, older adults affected with the disease generally have a poor immune system which aggravates their situation. Hence, they become vulnerable to flu, pneumonia, and other viral or bacterial infections.


How do I overcome Alzheimer's symptoms?

There are no definitive treatments available to completely overcome the symptoms of Alzheimer's. However, medications like cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine help in controlling Alzheimer's signs. Doctors also treat the condition with cognitive therapies that boost brain activity.

Is there a way to prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease symptoms?

Like the cure, there is no definitive method to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's. However, you can reduce the risk of suffering from the disease by making lifestyle changes. Some practices to try for the same include exercising, keeping your brain active, maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, getting adequate sleep, etc.

Do signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease progress differently in adults and children?

Alzheimer's disease does not affect children. It is typically seen in adults aged above 65 years. In certain cases, early onset is possible. But the minimum age range for its occurrence is between 30-40 years. Hence, the signs of Alzheimer's are mainly only found in adults and progress based on brain function and disease stage.

How to make patients affected by the symptoms of Alzheimer's happy?

Patents dealing with Alzheimer's signs and symptoms need all the care and support they can get. As a caregiver, a friend or a family member, you can help them with physical tasks, emotional coping, and regulating thoughts. Also, avoid practices that aggravate their symptoms like arguing, showing frustration, urging them to remember things, etc.

What are the factors affecting the progression of Alzheimer's?

The factors affecting the rate of Alzheimer's progression are typically associated with the patient's environment, lifestyle habits, and genetics. Some other risk factors of Alzheimer's include age, head injuries, substance abuse, poor sleeping patterns, heart health, etc. Keeping these in check along with the treatment plan may slow down the symptoms of Alzheimer's from progressing.


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About The Author

Dr.William Lewis Aliquam sit amet dignissim ligula, eget sodales orci. Etiam vehicula est ligula, laoreet porttitor diam congue eget. Cras vestibulum id nisl eu luctus. In malesuada tortor magna, vel tincidunt augue fringilla eget. Fusce ac lectus nec tellus malesuada pretium.

MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery) Gold Medalist (2009-2015) M.D In General Medicine (2016-2019), CCID (Infectious Diseases)

PG Diploma In Clinical Endocrinology v& Diabetes, Clinical Associate in Non-Invasive Cardiology

Dr.William Lewis Aliquam sit amet dignissim ligula, eget sodales orci. Etiam vehicula est ligula, laoreet porttitor diam congue eget. Cras vestibulum id nisl eu luctus. In malesuada tortor magna, vel tincidunt augue fringilla eget. Fusce ac lectus nec tellus malesuada pretium.

MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery) Gold Medalist (2009-2015) M.D In General Medicine (2016-2019), CCID (Infectious Diseases)

PG Diploma In Clinical Endocrinology v& Diabetes, Clinical Associate in Non-Invasive Cardiology

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