Alzheimer disease symptoms are mild when they start, but get worse over time.
Common problems in the early phase are:
- Forgetfulness with attempts to hide forgetting
- Losing items or putting them in the wrong place
- Getting lost while driving or walking in familiar places
- Lack of interest in activities
- Problems with focus
- Problems recalling words
- A change from complex to simple sentences
- Problems doing math
- Problems doing fine motor tasks, such as putting a key in the keyhole or buttoning a shirt
- Problems doing daily tasks, such as finances, home tasks, and hygiene
- Repeating questions and stories
- Wordy speech that does not make sense
- Problems naming things
- Signs of depression
Long-term memory may be good, but short-term memory begins to fail in this phase. Other changes may be:
- Problems sleeping
- Becoming less social and less aware of the feelings of others
- Needing help to make decisions
- Needing help bathing, grooming, dressing
- Forgetting one’s own history of personal events
- Personality changes, such as sudden mood shifts, anger, worry, or fearfulness
Abilities decline quickly in this phase. Changes may be:
- Problems using language
- Getting easily disoriented
- Problems with urine control
- Walking with a shuffle
- Falling often
- Showing little emotion
- Pain and problems moving
- Weight loss and problems swallowing
- Mental health problems, such as mood changes and seeing things that are not there
Alzheimer dementia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/alzheimer-dementia . Updated August 9, 2019. Accessed October 8, 2019.
Alzheimer's disease medications fact sheet. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-medications-fact-sheet. Updated April 2, 2018. Accessed October 8, 2019.
Atri A. The Alzheimer's Disease Clinical Spectrum: Diagnosis and Management. Med Clin North Am. 2019 Mar;103(2):263-293.
Mendez MF. What is the relationship of traumatic brain injury to dementia? J Alzheimer’s Dis. 2017;57(3):667-81.
What is Alzheimer's? Alzheimer’s Association website. Available at: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers%5Fdisease%5Fwhat%5Fis%5Falzheimers.asp. Accessed October 8, 2019.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date: 09/2019
- Update Date: 10/30/2020