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Progress Towards the Treatment and Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer's Research Center

WHAT IS ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE?

Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by loss of recent memory, confusion, disorientation and sometimes a change in personality. Patients suffer from progressive degeneration and loss of brain cells and acetylcholine, the chemical messenger needed for memory.

Other causes of memory loss include deficiencies of thyroid hormone or vitamin B12; also small strokes can affect memory and cognition. These causes of memory loss can be detected with blood tests or a brain scan such as a CT or MRI.

Individuals with significant memory loss should get a thorough neurological exam to rule out other potential causes of dementia.

CHECKLIST OF COMMON SYMPTOMS

Here is a check list of common symptoms (many of these also occur in other dementing illnesses). Review the list and check the symptoms that concern you. If you make several check marks, the individual with the symptoms should see a physician for a complete examination.
  • Memory Loss - Forgetting conversations and events that happened recently.
  • Disorientation - Not knowing where you are and how you got there, getting lost close to home, not knowing what year or month it is.
  • Language problems - Difficulty putting thoughts into words, difficulty finding simple words, forgetting what you are trying to say, sometimes even before you have completed saying it.
  • Problems performing usual tasks - Planning and making a meal, balancing a checkbook, following a recipe, etc.
  • Misplacing things - Losing things or putting them in odd places.
  • Problems with concentrating, abstract thinking and judgment – Wearing inappropriate clothing, giving money or private financial information to telemarketers, having difficulty understanding and using numbers, etc.
  • Loss of interest and initiative - Discontinuing pursuit of their usual activities and interests, watching TV for extended periods of time and sleeping a great deal.
  • Changes in mood, behavior and personality - Mood swings, irritability, aggressiveness, depression, anxiety, suspiciousness, loss of inhibitions and wandering.
  • Changes in visual and spatial perception - Difficulty understanding and interpreting what is seen.