Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, affects the brain, in particular the areas that control memory, reasoning and language. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that as many as 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. It most commonly affects men and women ages 60 and older, but it’s not a natural part of aging.
Since the risk does increase with age, however, it’s important to recognize the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease as you or your loved ones get older. Early detection gives you the chance to explore treatment options sooner and plan for the future before symptoms become more pronounced.
Very early symptoms. Memory problems typically are the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The National Institute on Aging reports people with mild Alzheimer’s “have a condition called amnestic mild cognitive impairment” or MCI. MCI causes you to have more memory issues than the average person of your same age. If you suffer from MCI, it’s likely the condition will progress into a more severe case of Alzheimer’s disease as you age.
Early (mild) symptoms. The beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease begin with memory difficulties. You may struggle to remember names or faces. Learning a new route to a destination may be difficult, and new situations may cause feelings of anxiety. Losing things or putting items in unusual places can be an early symptom, as well. There may also be difficulty performing daily tasks such as grooming, handling money and cooking. Poor judgment also becomes an issue.
Other early symptoms. Other early symptoms may include speech problems. For example, you may struggle to recall the name of a common item, instead calling it by a different word. Vision problems may occur, as well as a declining ability to judge spatial relationships. Confusion with time, including the months and seasons, is a common early symptom. Confusion may continue with forgetting how you arrived at a place or struggling to follow conversations.
As Alzheimer’s disease progress, more symptoms may appear, and many of the earliest symptoms will worsen. Some people suffering from Alzheimer’s may have symptoms that include depression, anxiety, irrationality and fear of things they once enjoyed. They might become withdrawn and draw back from once loved hobbies and activities.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, consult your physician.