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You are here : AllRefer.com > Health > Diseases & Conditions > Alzheimer's disease : Symptoms, Diagnosis & Tests

Alzheimer's disease

Alternate Names : Senile dementia - Alzheimer's type (SDAT), SDAT


Symptoms & Signs

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

  • Language
  • Memory
  • Perception
  • Emotional behavior or personality
  • Cognitive skills (such as calculation, abstract thinking, or judgment

Dementia usually first appears as forgetfulness.

Mild cognitive impairment is the stage between normal forgetfulness due to aging, and the development of 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 AD.

Symptoms of MCI include:

  • Forgetting 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 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 mood
  • 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 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 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 AD:

Diagnosis & Tests

AD can often be diagnosed through a history and physical exam by a skilled doctor or nurse. A health care provider will take a history, do a physical exam (including a neurological exam), and perform a mental status examination.

Tests may be ordered to help determine whether other medical problems could be causing dementia or making it worse. These conditions include:

Computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain may be done to look for other causes of dementia, such as a brain tumor or stroke.

  • In the early stages of dementia, brain image scans may be normal. In later stages, an MRI may show a decrease in the size of different areas of the brain.
  • While the scans do not confirm the diagnosis of AD, they do exclude other causes of dementia (such as stroke and tumor).




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Review Date : 8/29/2009
Reviewed By : Daniel B. Hoch, PhD, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.



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