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Alzheimer's Disease Fact Sheet

Alzheimer's Disease Fact Sheet

National Institute on Aging

What Are the Symptoms of AD?

AD begins slowly. At first, the only symptom may be mild forgetfulness, which can be confused with age-related memory change. Most people with mild forgetfulness do not have AD. In the early stage of AD, people may have trouble remembering recent events, activities, or the names of familiar people or things. They may not be able to solve simple math problems. Such difficulties may be a bother, but usually they are not serious enough to cause alarm.

However, as the disease goes on, symptoms are more easily noticed and become serious enough to cause people with AD or their family members to seek medical help. Forgetfulness begins to interfere with daily activities. People in the middle stages of AD may forget how to do simple tasks like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. They can no longer think clearly. They can fail to recognize familiar people and places. They begin to have problems speaking, understanding, reading, or writing. Later on, people with AD may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. Eventually, patients need total care.

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How is AD Diagnosed?

An early, accurate diagnosis of AD helps patients and their families plan for the future. It gives them time to discuss care while the patient can still take part in making decisions. Early diagnosis will also offer the best chance to treat the symptoms of the disease.

Today, the only definite way to diagnose AD is to find out whether there are plaques and tangles in brain tissue. To look at brain tissue, however, doctors usually must wait until they do an autopsy, which is an examination of the body done after a person dies. Therefore, doctors can only make a diagnosis of “possible” or “probable” AD while the person is still alive.

At specialized centers, doctors can diagnose AD correctly up to 90 percent of the time. Doctors use several tools to diagnose “probable” AD, including:

  1. questions about the person’s general health, past medical problems, and ability to carry out daily activities,
  2. tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language,
  3. medical tests—such as tests of blood, urine, or spinal fluid, and
  4. brain scans.

Sometimes these test results help the doctor find other possible causes of the person’s symptoms. For example, thyroid problems, drug reactions, depression, brain tumors, and blood vessel disease in the brain can cause AD-like symptoms. Some of these other conditions can be treated successfully.

Next: How is AD Treated? >>


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  • 334194_4082566659164_677343731_o_max50

    swimnutt1523

    over 4 years ago

    748 comments

    I too loved youe article it was awsome

  • Typenningtonw_max50

    dadsjake

    over 6 years ago

    26 comments

    I really liked your article It was very informative. I rate this very good Tammy @dadsjake

  • Typenningtonw_max50

    dadsjake

    over 6 years ago

    26 comments

    My father just passed away from this horrible disease. Every year I walk for the cause to wipe out and find a cure for Alzheimers disease. I pray for all of the families that have to go through this GOD BLESS to all Tammara

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