What Are Common Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disease, and by the time symptoms appear, it is thought that disease-related changes in the brain have been happening for 10 or more years.1 This is known as the pre-clinical phase, and though no signs or symptoms are showing, changes in the brain are slowly occurring. Once symptoms do start to become apparent, it’s important to seek assistance from your health care provider so that an accurate diagnosis can be made and treatments can be decided upon.
As with the course of Alzheimer’s disease, the initial symptoms can vary widely among individuals, although problems with memory are usually the first symptoms that appear.1
Other early symptoms can include word-finding difficulties, visual/spatial issues, and judgment impairments.
These symptoms can often be mistaken for other problems – and can also be symptoms of other issues like adverse medication effects, nutritional deficiencies, or various medical issues. It’s important to get a thorough neurological and medical evaluation to rule out other potential diagnoses so that the proper treatment can be given.
Over the course of the disease, your symptoms will change. Alzheimer’s disease is often broken down into three stages: mild, or early-stage; moderate; and severe. Each stage has different symptoms that signal the progression of the disease. Knowing the symptoms can help you stay aware of your disease and enable you to ask your doctor about new treatments that can help alleviate the symptoms.
Early stage Alzheimer's symptoms
In the initial stage of Alzheimer’s disease, you might still be fairly independent but experience one or more of the following symptoms:2
- having trouble finding the right word for something
- not being able to remember someone’s name when meeting them
- difficulties with work tasks
- forgetting information you just read
- misplacing valuable objects
- increasing difficulty with planning or organizing
These symptoms are significant enough that those close to you, like family or co-workers, notice that these signs are more serious than typical forgetfulness that comes with aging.
Moderate stage Alzheimer's symptoms
This stage is usually the longest stage of Alzheimer’s disease and can last for years, although during this stage, the symptoms still progress.2 You might remain slightly independent in the beginning of this stage, but as it progresses, more and more help is needed.
In this stage, you will likely still remember important events and information about your life, but the Alzheimer’s symptoms become more pronounced and you have more difficulty with tasks and cognition. Symptoms are noticeable to others, not just those closest to you. These can include:1,2
- mood changes
- trouble choosing appropriate clothing for the season
- difficulty swallowing or eating
- confusion about what day it is or where you are
- sleep difficulties or disturbances
- the inability to learn new information
- trouble recognizing family/friends
- personality or behavioral changes like hand wringing or agitation
- trouble with language
- increased risk of wandering
The variety and severity of symptoms change over time during this stage, with increasing symptoms and severity as the stage progresses.
Severe stage Alzheimer's symptoms
In this stage, an individual cannot communicate and is completely dependent on other people for their basic daily care.
- an inability to communicate
- weight loss
- loss of bladder and bowel control
- significant vulnerability to infections
- loss of ability to sit or walk
- increased sleeping
Each person may experience different symptoms and different degrees of symptom severity at different times, so talk with your doctor and caregivers about symptoms and how you’d like them to be treated. While there is no cure, treatment does focus on alleviating or minimizing symptoms to make you comfortable and improve everyday life.