10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease
People with Alzheimer's disease experience symptoms and signs in varying degrees. Some of the warning symptoms and signs include
- Confusion with places and time
- Problems completing familiar tasks
- Problems with spatial relations and visual images
- Misplacing items
Quick GuideA Caregiver's Guide to Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer's disease facts
- Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a slowly progressive disease of the brain that is characterized by
symptoms like impairment of memory and eventually by disturbances in reasoning, planning, language, and perception.
- Alzheimer's disease is by far the most common cause for dementia in the United States and in most countries in the world.
- The likelihood of having Alzheimer's disease increases substantially after the age of 70, and
it may affect around 50% of persons over the age of 85.
- The main risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is increased age. There are also genetic
and other risk factors.
- Characteristic symptoms and stages of Alzheimer disease include
- problems with performing familiar tasks,
- difficulty writing or speaking,
- loss of orientation to time and place,
- losing or misplacing items,
- mood or behavior changes,
- loss of interest in daily activities, and
- poor judgment.
- Symptoms may be present in varying degrees of severity.
- The cause(s) of Alzheimer's disease is (are) not known. Although, accumulation of the protein amyloid in the brain is suspected to play a role.
- The diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease should be based on a comprehensive examination that rules out other causes of dementia.
- There are numerous causes of dementia, so having the characteristic symptoms do not necessarily mean that a person has Alzheimer disease.
- The treatment and management of Alzheimer's disease consists of medications and non-medication based treatments.
What is Alzheimer's disease?
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a slowly progressive disease of the brain that is characterized by impairment of memory and eventually by disturbances in reasoning, planning, language, and perception. Many scientists believe that Alzheimer's disease results from an increase in the production or accumulation of a specific protein (beta-amyloid protein) in the brain that leads to nerve cell death.
The likelihood of having Alzheimer's disease increases substantially after the age of 70 and may affect around 50% of persons over the age of 85. Nonetheless, Alzheimer's disease is not a normal part of aging and is not something that inevitably happens in later life. For example, many people live to over 100 years of age and never develop Alzheimer's disease.
What's the difference between Alzheimer's disease and dementia?
Dementia is a syndrome characterized by:
- impairment in memory,
- impairment in another area of thinking such as the ability to organize thoughts and reason, the ability to use language, or the ability to see accurately the visual world (not because of eye disease), and
- these impairments are severe enough to cause a decline in the patient's usual level of functioning.
Although some kinds of memory loss are normal parts of aging, the changes due to aging are not severe enough to interfere with the level of function. Although many different diseases can cause dementia, Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause for dementia in the United States and in most countries in the world.
Who's at risk for getting Alzheimer's disease?
The main risk factor for Alzheimer's disease is increased age. As a population ages, the frequency of Alzheimer's disease continues to increase. Ten percent of people over 65 years of age and 50% of those over 85 years of age have Alzheimer's disease. Unless new treatments are developed to decrease the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease, the number of individuals with Alzheimer's disease in the United States is expected to be 13.8 million by the year 2050.
There are also genetic risk factors for Alzheimer's disease. Most people develop Alzheimer's disease after age 70. However, less than 5% of people develop the disease in the fourth or fifth decade of life (40s or 50s). At least half of these early onset patients have inherited gene mutations associated with their Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, the children of a patient with early onset Alzheimer's disease who has one of these gene mutations has a 50% risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Common forms of certain genes increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, but do not invariably cause Alzheimer's disease. The best-studied "risk" gene is the one that encodes apolipoprotein E (apoE).
- The apoE gene has three different forms (alleles) -- apoE2, apoE3, and apoE4.
- The apoE4 form of the gene has been associated with increased risk of Alzheimer's disease in most (but not all) populations studied.
- The frequency of the apoE4 version of the gene in the general population varies, but is always less than 30% and frequently 8% to 15%.
- People with one copy of the E4 gene usually have about a two- to three-fold increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
- Persons with two copies of the E4 gene (usually around 1% of the population) have about a nine-fold increase in risk.
- Nonetheless, even persons with two copies of the E4 gene don't always get Alzheimer's disease.
- At least one copy of the E4 gene is found in 40% of patients with sporadic or late-onset Alzheimer's disease.
This means that in majority of patients with Alzheimer's disease, no genetic risk factor has yet been found. Most experts do not recommend that adult children of patients with Alzheimer's disease should have genetic testing for the apoE4 gene since there is no treatment for Alzheimer's disease. When medical treatments that prevent or decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease become available, genetic testing may be recommended for adult children of patients with Alzheimer's disease so that they may be treated.
Many, but not all, studies have found that women have a higher risk for Alzheimer's disease than men. It is certainly true that women live longer than men, but age alone does not seem to explain the increased frequency in women. The apparent increased frequency of Alzheimer's disease in women has led to considerable research about the role of estrogen in Alzheimer's disease. Recent studies suggest that estrogen should not be prescribed to post-menopausal women for the purpose of decreasing the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Nonetheless, the role of estrogen in Alzheimer's disease remains an area of research focus.
Other risk factors for Alzheimer's disease
Other risk factors for Alzheimer's disease include:
In the majority of Alzheimer's disease cases, however, no specific genetic risks have yet been identified.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/17/2015