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Memory loss is usually the first sign of Alzheimer's disease. Often the person who has a memory problem doesn't notice it, but family and friends do.
Having some short-term memory loss in your 60s and 70s is common, but this doesn't mean it's Alzheimer's disease.
Normal memory problems aren't the same as the kind of memory problems that may be caused by Alzheimer's disease. For example, normally you might forget:
Parts of an experience.
Where your car is parked.
A person's name. (But you may remember the name later.)
With Alzheimer's disease, you might forget:
An entire experience.
What your car looks like.
Having ever known a certain person.
Following are some of the symptoms of mild, moderate, and severe Alzheimer's disease. Symptoms vary as the disease progresses. Talk to your doctor if a friend or family member has any of the signs.
Mild Alzheimer's disease
Usually, a person with mild Alzheimer's disease:
Avoids new and unfamiliar situations.
Has delayed reactions.
Has trouble learning and remembering new information.
Starts speaking more slowly than in the past.
Starts using poor judgment and making wrong decisions.
May have mood swings and become depressed, grouchy, or restless.
These symptoms often are more obvious when the person is in a new and unfamiliar place or situation.
Some people have memory loss called mild cognitive impairment. People with this condition are at risk for Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia. But not all people with mild cognitive impairment progress to dementia.
Moderate Alzheimer's disease
With moderate Alzheimer's disease, a person typically:
Has problems recognizing close friends and family.
Becomes more restless, especially in late afternoon and at night. This is called sundowning.
Has problems reading, writing, and dealing with numbers.
Has trouble dressing.
Has more trouble doing daily tasks like cooking a meal or paying bills. For example, maybe the person can't use simple appliances such as a microwave.
Has trouble making decisions.
Is confused about what time and day it is.
Gets lost in places that the person knows well.
Has trouble finding the right words to say what he or she wants to say.
Severe Alzheimer's disease
With severe Alzheimer's disease, a person usually:
Can't remember how to bathe, eat, dress, or go to the bathroom without help.
No longer knows when to chew and swallow.
Has trouble with balance or walking and may fall often.
Becomes more confused in the evening (sundowning) and has trouble sleeping.
Can't use words to communicate.
Loses bowel or bladder control (incontinence).
Other conditions with similar symptoms
Early in the disease, Alzheimer's usually doesn't affect a person's fine motor skills (such as the ability to button or unbutton clothes or use utensils) or sense of touch. So a person who has motor symptoms (such as weakness or shaking hands) or sensory symptoms (such as numbness) probably has a condition other than Alzheimer's disease. Conditions such as Parkinson's disease, for instance, may cause motor symptoms along with dementia.
Other conditions with symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer's disease may include:
Dementia caused by small strokes (multi-infarct dementia).
Thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
Other problems such as kidney and liver disease and some infections such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).
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