Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

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Elderly with mild cognitive impairment

Memory loss. An inability to remember recent events (short-term memory loss) is the single most common and characteristic symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and is present from the onset in most cases. At the beginning, patients may be aware of their own memory problems, but sometimes the people close to them, e.g., family or friends, are the first to detect such problems. Memory loss manifests as forgetting about recent events and difficulty learning new skills, although individuals may remember events that occurred a long time ago. They forget conversations, appointments or tasks that were discussed shortly beforehand; repeat something or a question several times because they forget doing it; lose or misplace objects (keys, wallet/purse, cards, etc.). We all forget things from time to time but with Alzheimer’s disease it occurs frequently (several times a day), continuously (day after day for months on end), significantly (sufferers forget important things, not just trivial matters) and progressively (they forget increasingly more things and of increasing importance).

Person with difficulty in doing homework

Difficulty planning and carrying out tasks. Patients may find it hard to complete complex tasks, whether because they do not finish them, they complete them incorrectly or they take much longer than normal. They eventually experience difficulties with even the simplest of tasks.

Person with temporary disorientation at night

Disorientation to time and space. People with Alzheimer’s disease can find it hard to specify the current time, day, month, season or year. They can also present problems when orientating themselves in space, that is, they get lost easily; firstly in unfamiliar locations and later around their own home.

Older person with language problems

Language problems. Patients have trouble speaking (expression) or understanding what is explained to them (comprehension). Difficulty with language expression manifests as a loss of vocabulary and the patient sometimes uses wildcard words (“thing”, “this” or “that”) or produces a discontinuous train of speech. They may also find it hard to understand things, particularly in the case of long sentences.

Older person talking angrily to a young person

Behavioural changes. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, patients may present mood swings, become less motivated and neglect their everyday tasks. Given that patients are often unaware of the severity of their cognitive problems, they often react irritably to any help offered to them. Individuals in more advanced stages may sometimes misinterpret situations or perceive things differently (delusions or hallucinations) potentially leading to acts of verbal or physical aggression against themselves or others, especially in the evening or at night.

Sleeping person with sad expression

Altered sleep patterns. As the disease progresses patients normal sleep pattern often becomes disrupted. They may sleep during the day and at night, or experience problems maintaining sleep.

Person with motor disorder

Motor disorders. Movement problems do not form part of the early symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but in later, more severe stages the brain’s control of movement is also affected and therefore patients may lose the capacity to walk or even sit upright in a chair.

Substantiated information by:

Neus Falgas Martínez
Raquel Sanchez del Valle Díaz
Soledad Barreiro Gigan

Published: 9 April 2018
Updated: 9 April 2018

The donations that can be done through this webpage are exclusively for the benefit of Hospital Clínic of Barcelona through Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica and not for BBVA Foundation, entity that collaborates with the project of PortalClínic.


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