Alzheimer's disease history and symptoms

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Abdurahman Khalil, M.D. [2]

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Although each patient experiences Alzheimer's disease (AD) in a unique way, there are many common symptoms. The earliest observable symptoms are often mistaken for normal effects of aging or manifestations of stress.


Obtaining patient's history is an important aspect of making a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. It provides an insight into precipitating factors and associated comorbid conditions. Complete history will help determine the correct therapy and helps in determining the prognosis. Alzheimer's disease patients may be disoriented and therefore the patient interview may be difficult. In such cases history from the care givers or the family members may need to be obtained. Specific histories about the symptoms (duration, onset, progression), associated symptoms, drug usage have to be obtained. Specific areas of focus when obtaining the history, are outlined below:


The most commonly recognized symptom of early Alzheimer's disease (AD) is memory loss, which usually involves forgetfulness of recently learned facts. As the disease advances, symptoms include confusion, irritability, aggression, mood swings, language breakdown, long-term memory loss, and the general withdrawal of the sufferer as their senses decline. [1][2]. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death.[3]

Dementia symptoms include difficulty with many areas of mental function, including:

Dementia usually first manifests as forgetfulness.

Mild cognitive impairment is the stage between normal forgetfulness due to aging and the development of Alzheimer's disease (AD). People with MCI have mild problems with thinking and memory that do not interfere with everyday activities. They are often aware of the forgetfulness. Not everyone with MCI develops Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Symptoms of mild cognitive impairment include:

  • Forgetfulness of recent events or conversations
  • Difficulty performing more than one task at a time
  • Difficulty solving problems
  • Taking longer to perform more difficult activities

The early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease (AD) can include:

  • Language problems, such as trouble finding the name of familiar objects
  • Misplacing items
  • Getting lost on familiar routes
  • Personality changes and loss of social skills
  • Losing interest in things previously enjoyed; flat affect
  • Difficulty performing tasks that take some thought, but used to come easily, such as balancing a checkbook, playing complex games (such as bridge), and learning new information or routines

As the Alzheimer's disease (AD) becomes worse, symptoms are more obvious and interfere with your ability to take care of yourself. Symptoms can include:

  • Forgetting details about current events
  • Forgetting events in your own life history, losing awareness of who you are
  • Change in sleep patterns, often waking up at night
  • Difficulty reading or writing
  • Poor judgment and loss of ability to recognize danger
  • Using the wrong word, mispronouncing words, speaking in confusing sentences
  • Withdrawing from social contact
  • Having hallucinations, arguments, striking out, and violent behavior
  • Having delusions, depression, agitation
  • Difficulty doing basic tasks, such as preparing meals, choosing proper clothing, and driving

People with severe Alzheimer's disease (AD) can no longer:

  • Understand language
  • Recognize family members
  • Perform basic activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, and bathing

Other symptoms that may occur with Alzheimer's disease (AD):


  1. Waldemar G, Dubois B, Emre M, Georges J, McKeith IG, Rossor M; et al. (2007). "Recommendations for the diagnosis and management of Alzheimer's disease and other disorders associated with dementia: EFNS guideline". Eur J Neurol. 14 (1): e1–26. doi:10.1111/j.1468-1331.2006.01605.x. PMID 17222085.
  2. Hinton L, Franz CE, Reddy G, Flores Y, Kravitz RL, Barker JC (2007). "Practice constraints, behavioral problems, and dementia care: primary care physicians' perspectives". J Gen Intern Med. 22 (11): 1487–92. doi:10.1007/s11606-007-0317-y. PMC 2219799. PMID 17823840.
  3. "Understanding stages and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease". National Institute on Aging. 2007-10-26. Retrieved 2008-02-21.

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