7 Alzheimer's Disease Stages and Symptoms

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What are the signs, symptoms, and stages of Alzheimer's disease?

Although the course of Alzheimer's disease varies from person to person, several stages are recognized. How many stages are recognized depends on what expert you consult (described stages may range from 3 to 7). Almost all experts agree that there at least three major stages

  1. mild (early stage),
  2. moderate (middle stage), and
  3. severe (late stage).

Those experts that list up to seven stages do so by breaking the three stages into subsets (for example, the severe stage is broken into severe decline and very severe decline). These stages are defined by certain signs and symptoms. The object of this article is to list those signs and symptoms that usually appear in these stages. Unfortunately, some people with Alzheimer's disease may have some symptoms that may cross over stages.

People with Alzheimer's disease, family members, and others are often told that the affected person has mild, moderate or severe disease. However, others are told they are in one of seven Alzheimer's stages (stages previously used by some physicians and other health-care professionals). This seven stage designation is termed the Global Deterioration Scale (GDS). A few other experts even break down the seven stages into subsets (for example, stage into 6a -6f). Moreover, the stages have various names depending on who is describing them. Consequently, people can be confused if they hear about various "stages" of Alzheimer's disease. In an effort to clarify the situation, all seven Global Deterioration Scale will be presented along with their names (subsets will not be presented) and then each Global Deterioration Scale will then be rated as mild, moderate or severe.

The Alzheimer Association provides a list of 10 "early" signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease; they are:

  • Reduced ability in planning or problem-solving
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks done at home, work or at leisure
  • Confusion due to loss of understanding of dates and time
  • Difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Problems with speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things in unusual places and not being able to retrace steps to find items
  • Decreasing judgment and/or poor judgment when dealing with finances and/or personal hygiene
  • Avoiding work and/or social activities
  • Changes in personality, behavior, and mood.

Although some of the signs and symptoms may appear occasionally with age-related changes and not be due to Alzheimer’s disease, if the above signs and symptoms cause anyone to worry about a potential diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, the individual should be seen and evaluated by a health-care professional.

Reviewed on 5/12/2016

Alzheimer's Association. Stages of Alzheimer's.

Anderson, H. "Alzheimer Disease." Medscape. Updated May 04, 2016.

Alzheimer's Association. "What is Alzheimer's?"

Reisberg, B. "Clinical stages of Alzheimer's." Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation.


1.Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center, National Institute on Aging

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