Alzheimer’s disease is difficult to diagnose in its early stages. Patients may neglect the initial signs and symptoms as simple forgetfulness, or primary care doctors may not test for Alzheimer’s disease since they may not recognize the condition. As a result, patients and families underreport the condition and the disease goes unrecognized until it is too late.
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Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Recognizing the symptoms early is critical in Alzheimer’s disease. This is because medications are most effective in the initial stages of the disease, and it is possible to slow down the condition for a few years. So, if you have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, we recommend you watch out for the following signs of warning.
• Progressive memory loss: The disease is distinguished by short-term memory loss that soon starts interfering with daily life. Signs to watch out for include forgetting important dates, increased dependence on memory aids, and unusual amounts of forgetfulness.
• Difficulty in cognitive thinking and planning: About 10 percent of affected patients also report difficulty in planning their day-to-day life and following a plan. They may find it difficult to follow simple instructions like tracking monthly bills, following a recipe, or concentrating on simple activities like bathing, driving, or even playing a simple game. Spatial relationships, visual images, and color and contrast become mixed up as well.
• Date and time confusion: Affected patients find it difficult to tally time and date with seasons and situations. They find it difficult to understand what is happening around and they sometimes forget where they are and what they want to do.
• Confusion with words: Finding the right word while talking or writing is also a classic sign of Alzheimer’s. Patients have trouble following or starting a conversation and they forget simple words or use the wrong words for objects.
• Changes in mood and personality: This is probably the most prominent and easily recognizable change seen in about 90 percent of all affected patients. They may seem aggressive, depressed, fearful, panicky, anxious, and/or upset for no reason at all. This symptom is characterized by sundowning, in which the symptoms become worse in late afternoons or evenings.
The Bottom Line
There is no single test that can diagnose Alzheimer’s, but if you notice any of these symptoms in a friend or relative, make sure you help them consult with a doctor immediately.
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