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Published on: February 6, 2012
by Karen Ravn for Dementia Today
Alzheimers symptoms and signs are unique on each patient. Through that it sometimes will be tricky to diagnose Alzheimers disease. Several of the signs and symptoms present in Alzheimer’s disease also exist in other conditions and diseases.
Alzheimer’s disease is classified into several stages. Some doctors use a 7-stage framework, while others may use a 4, 5 or 6-stage one.
A common framework includes 1. Pre-Dementia Stage. 2. Mild Alzheimer’s Stage. 3.Moderate Alzheimer’s Stage. 4. Severe Alzheimer’s Stage. The example below is of a 7-stage framework. In stage 7 Alzheimers symptoms are most severe.
The Alzheimer’s Assn. has compiled a list of 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s and how they differ from mental glitches that shouldn’t faze you. They include:
Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
Challenges in planning or solving problems.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure.
Confusion with time or place.
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships.
New problems with words in speaking or writing.
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps.
Decreased or poor judgment.
Withdrawal from work or social activities.
Changes in mood or personality.
“A person doesn’t have to have all of them,” says Dr. David Reuben, chief of the geriatrics division in the Department of Medicine at UCLA. “But with three or four, maybe it’s time to get checked out.”
Scientists are conducting studies to learn more about plaques, tangles, and other features of Alzheimer’s disease. They can now visualize plaques by imaging the brains of living individuals. They are also exploring the very earliest steps in the disease process. Findings from these studies will help them understand the causes of Alzheimer’s.
One of the great mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease is why it largely strikes older adults. Research on how the brain changes normally with age is shedding light on this question. For example, scientists are learning how age-related changes in the brain may harm neurons and contribute to Alzheimer’s damage. These age-related changes include atrophy (shrinking) of certain parts of the brain, inflammation, and the production of unstable molecules called free radicals.
What Are the Alzheimers Symptoms?
Symptoms like forgetfulness, confusion, getting lost in familiar places, misplacing things and trouble with language. The list below details 10 warning signs according to the Alzheimer’s Association:
The first striking of Alzheimers symptoms is forgetfulness severe enough to affect patients ability to function at home or at work, or to enjoy lifelong hobbies.
Difficulty Performing Familiar Tasks
Busy people can be so distracted from time to time that they may leave the carrots on the stove and only remember to serve them at the end of a meal. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble with tasks that have been familiar to them all their lives, such as preparing a meal.
Balancing a chequebook may be hard when the task is more complicated than usual. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease, however, might forget what the numbers are and what needs to be done with them.
It’s normal to forget the day of the week or where you are going, but people with Alzheimer’s disease can become lost on the street where they live, forget where they are and how they got there, and not know how to get back home.
People often tire of housework, business activities or social obligations at times. However, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may become excessively passive, sitting in front of the television for hours, sleeping more than usual or not doing usual activities.
No one has perfect judgment all the time, but those with Alzheimer’s disease may dress without regard to the weather, for instance wearing several shirts on a warm day. Individuals with dementia often show poor judgment about money, giving away large amounts to telemarketers or paying for repairs or products they don’t need.
All of us have trouble finding the right word from time to time, but people with Alzheimer’s disease often forget simple words or substitute unusual words, making their speech or writing hard to understand. If a person with Alzheimer’s disease is unable to find a toothbrush, for example, they may ask for “that thing for my mouth”.
Anyone can temporarily misplace a wallet or key. A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places: an iron in the freezer or a wristwatch in the sugar bowl.
Everyone can become sad or moody from time to time. However, someone with Alzheimer’s disease can show rapid mood swings (from calm to tears to anger) for no apparent reason.
Personalities ordinarily change somewhat with age but a person with Alzheimer’s disease may have a severe personality change, becoming extremely confused, suspicious, fearful or dependent on a family member.
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