Alzheimer’s Disease accounts for around 62% of all dementia cases, with an estimated 850,000 people affected by the condition in the UK. It is especially common in people over the age of 65, is one in 14 people affected.
You’ve probably heard of Alzheimer’s Disease, but what are the warning signs that you need to look out for? Today’s post will look at the most common symptoms and explain them in detail so that you know what to look for. For a more in-depth look at dementia, please read our useful guide.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Before we look at the symptoms of the condition, let’s remind ourselves about what Alzheimer’s Disease is. It’s the most common form of dementia that affects your brain and is named after the doctor who first described it, Alois Alzheimer.
The Alzheimer’s Society describes the scientific process of the condition:
During the course of the disease, proteins build up in the brain to form structures called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’. This leads to the loss of connections between nerve cells, and eventually to the death of nerve cells and loss of brain tissue.”
The condition also causes a shortage of important chemicals in your brain. These chemical messengers help to transmit signals around the brain. When there is a shortage of them, the signals are not transmitted as effectively.
As Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive condition, the following symptoms develop gradually and become more severe of the course of several years. Everybody will be affected by these symptoms in different ways, with the rate at which they progress being different in each case.
Medications for other medical conditions, infections, delirium and strokes can cause your symptoms to worsen. The NHS generally split the symptoms of the condition into different stages of the condition. Some of the signs to look out for in the early stages of the disease include:
- Memory Lapses – Forgetting about recent conversations and events. Forgetting the names of places and objects, as well as the right words to use when you’re talking.
- Repetitive Speaking – People in the early stages of the condition may begin repeating themselves on a regular basis and asking the same questions over and over.
- Personality Changes – Those affected by begin to become less flexible and more hesitant to try new things. They may also begin to show poor judgement and find it increasingly difficult to make decisions. Mood changes, agitation and anxiety may also begin to appear.
As previously discussed, Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive condition. This means that over time, the symptoms from the early stages of the condition will worsen. This is especially true with the affected person’s memory.
They may start to forget the names of their loved ones and even struggle to recognise them when they are around them. Other symptoms also begin to appear during the middle stages of the condition. Symptoms include:
- Further Personality Changes – The affected person may struggle with repetitive, obsessive and impulsive behaviour, as well as suffering from mood swings, frustration and depression.
- Confusion – As the condition progresses, the person affected will begin to feel disorientated and confused about their surroundings. They may begin wandering and getting lost, whilst also struggling with the time of day.
- Delusions – The feeling of paranoia increases, and some people may even become suspicious about their loved ones and carers.
- Hallucinations – Those affected may begin seeing and hearing things which aren’t really there, which can be a frightening experience for everybody.
- Speech Problems – A condition known as aphasia may cause difficulty with reading, listening, speaking and writing. This is usually caused by damage to the left side of your brain.
During this stage of the condition people also struggle with their spacial awareness and often struggle to get a good night sleep. Now is also the time for care and support at home, to help the affected with everyday life.
Sadly, over time these symptoms worsen even further and can become distressing for the person affected, their loved ones and carers. As their confusion, hallucinations and personality continues to worsen, patients may become violent, panicked and suspicious of those around them.
Further symptoms may also begin to appear during the later stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, such as:
- Memory Loss – The person affected will now suffer from severe short and long-term memory loss.
- Loss of Speech – They will also struggle to communicate with people, with a gradual loss of their ability to talk.
- Mobility Difficulty – At this stage of the condition, people will need full-time care to help them with everyday tasks and with general movement.
- Urinary Incontinence – Unintentional passing of urine.
If you’re concerned that you or a loved one may be suffering from early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible or encourage your friend/family member to make their own appointment.
Memory loss can be caused by several physical and mental conditions and your doctor will be able to carry out tests to find any problems.
If you’re looking for further information about Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia please take a look at the following posts:
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