Alzheimer's disease - Symptom
Senile dementia - Alzheimer's type (SDAT); SDAT
Dementia symptoms include difficulty with many areas of mental function, including:
- Emotional behavior or personality
- Cognitive skills (such as calculation, abstract thinking, or judgment)
Dementia usually first appears as forgetfulness.
Mild cognitive impairment is the stage between normal forgetfulness due to aging, and the development of AD. People with MCI have mild problems with thinking and memory that do not interfere with everyday activities. They are often aware of the forgetfulness. Not everyone with MCI develops AD.
Symptoms of MCI include:
- Forgetting recent events or conversations
- Difficulty performing more than one task at a time
- Difficulty solving problems
- Taking longer to perform more difficult activities
The early symptoms of AD can include:
- Language problems, such as trouble finding the name of familiar objects
- Misplacing items
- Getting lost on familiar routes
- Personality changes and loss of social skills
- Losing interest in things previously enjoyed, flat mood
- Difficulty performing tasks that take some thought, but used to come easily, such as balancing a checkbook, playing complex games (such as bridge), and learning new information or routines
As the AD becomes worse, symptoms are more obvious and interfere with your ability to take care of yourself. Symptoms can include:
- Forgetting details about current events
- Forgetting events in your own life history, losing awareness of who you are
- Change in sleep patterns, often waking up at night
- Difficulty reading or writing
- Poor judgment and loss of ability to recognize danger
- Using the wrong word, mispronouncing words, speaking in confusing sentences
- Withdrawing from social contact
- Having hallucinations, arguments, striking out, and violent behavior
- Having delusions, depression, agitation
- Difficulty doing basic tasks, such as preparing meals, choosing proper clothing, and driving
People with severe AD can no longer:
- Understand language
- Recognize family members
- Perform basic activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, and bathing
Other symptoms that may occur with AD:
Signs and tests:
AD can often be diagnosed through a history and physical exam by a skilled doctor or nurse. A health care provider will take a history, do a physical exam (including a neurological exam), and perform a mental status examination.
Tests may be ordered to help determine whether other medical problems could be causing dementia or making it worse. These conditions include:
Computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain may be done to look for other causes of dementia, such as a brain tumor or stroke.
- In the early stages of dementia, brain image scans may be normal. In later stages, an MRI may show a decrease in the size of different areas of the brain.
- While the scans do not confirm the diagnosis of AD, they do exclude other causes of dementia (such as stroke and tumor).
- Reviewed last on: 10/4/2010
- Daniel Kantor, MD, Medical Director of Neurologique, Ponte Vedra, FL and President of the Florida Society of Neurology (FSN). Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Aisen PS, Schneider LS, Sano M, Diaz-Arrastia R, van Dyck CH, et al. High-dose B vitamin supplementation and cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2008;300:1774-1783.
DeKosky ST, Williamson JD, Fitzpatrick AL, Kronmal RA, Ives DG, Saxton JA, et al. Ginkgo biloba for prevention of dementia: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2008;300:2253-2262.
Mayeux R. Early Alzheimer’s disease. N Engl J Med. 2010 Jun 10;362(4):2194-2201.
Querfurth HW, LaFerla FM. Alzheimer's disease. N Engl J Med. 2010 Jan 28;362(4):329-44.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885