Symptoms and Diagnosis
Alzheimer’s begins slowly. At first, the only symptom may be mild forgetfulness, trouble remembering recent events, activities, or the names of familiar people or things. Simple math problems may become hard to solve. It becomes bothersome, but usually is not serious enough to cause alarm.
It is only when the disease gets progressively worse are the symptoms more easily noticeable and become serious enough to seek medical help. People in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease may forget how to do simple tasks, like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. They can no longer think clearly, have problems speaking, understanding, reading, or writing. Later on, people with Alzheimer’s disease may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, patients need total care and attention.
An early, accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease helps patients and their families plan for the future. It gives them time to discuss care options while the patient can still take part in making decisions. Early diagnosis also offers the best chance to treat the symptoms of the disease. Doctors have to make a diagnosis of “Possible” or “Probable’ Alzheimer’s disease at specialized centers, through certain procedures. A complete medical history includes information about the person’s general health, past medical problems, difficulties the person has carrying out daily activities. Medical tests–such as tests of blood, urine, or spinal fluid. Neuropsychological tests measure memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language. Brain scans to see if there are any abnormalities. Doctors rule out other possible causes of the person’s symptoms from the medical history and test results. For example, thyroid problems, drug reactions, depression, brain tumors, and blood vessel disease in the brain can cause Alzheimer’s like symptoms. These other symptoms can be treated successfully. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, the symptoms grow worse over time. Yet, it is also a variable disease. Symptoms progress at different rates and in different patterns. The appearance and progression of symptoms will vary from one person to the next.
Some of the common symptoms are
- anxiety, paranoia, suspiciousness, agitation.
- changes in personality and judgment.
- confusion and memory loss.
- difficulty with activities of daily living, such as feeding and bathing.
- difficulty recognizing family and friends.
- getting lost in familiar surroundings.
- hallucinations and delusions.
- loss of appetite.
- weight loss.
- loss of bladder and bowel control.
- loss of speech.
- problems with routine tasks.
- repetitive speaking or action.
- sleep disturbances.
- total dependence on caregiver.
- wandering, pacing.