Alzheimer's Disease: Symptoms, Stages, Facts and Diagnosis

Dr. Archana Shukla

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Archana Shukla


11 min read

Key Takeaways

  • Confusion and memory loss are common Alzheimer’s disease symptoms
  • There are no fixed medications you can take for Alzheimer’s cure
  • You can manage Alzheimer’s disease with constant care and support

Of the many disease types, dementia and its many forms are quite common. For instance, Alzheimer's disease is a form of dementia that typically affects older people and gradually worsens with time. It is responsible for the deterioration of memory and other important mental functions [1]. As it progresses, it leads to the decline of a person's ability to understand and carry out basic cognitive tasks. An estimated 5.3 million people above the age of 60 have dementia in India as per a 2020 report, and this number is projected to exceed 152 million by the year 2050 [2]. 

Currently, Alzheimer's disease is incurable, and there are no reliable ways to prevent its onset. As such, proper management is key, and Alzheimer's disease treatment focuses on this aspect. The main goal is to support the afflicted and help them deal with the symptoms. This helps those living with it to get through life and remain independent for as long as possible. Unfortunately, the disease can ultimately prove to be fatal. 

To know more about Alzheimer's disease and its different factors, read on. 

Causes of Alzheimer's Diseases

In this disease, brain cells start to lose connection with each other, deteriorate, and eventually die. Such changes are associated with the build-up of abnormal proteins. These form tangles and plaque that inhibit the normal function of nerve cells. Ultimately, this results in cell death, and the pattern spreads throughout the brain. 

While genetics plays a major role in the onset of Alzheimer's Disease, there are other factors responsible too. Here are a few to note. 

  • Old age
  • Prior injuries in the head
  • Down syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • Smoking
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure 
  • Type 2 Diabetes 
  • Stroke
  • Long term exposure to solvents like paints and glues 
Additional Read: Dementia: 5 Common Types, Symptomsfood to reduce Alzheimer's Disease

Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

There are a lot of changes that occur with this disease. Mostly these affect the areas of your brain that control language, memory, and thought process. While primarily impairing mental function and behavior, as the disease progresses, it also affects physical functions. For instance, you may find it difficult to have bladder or bowel control during the later stages. 

Behavioral Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

The types of behavioral changes that take place vary from individual to individual. During the initial stages, the common symptoms are:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Confusion about the time and date
  • Forgetfulness, usually short-term memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Reduced spontaneity and initiative to do things
  • The decline in the ability to perform routine tasks
  • Difficulty in communicating
  • Difficulty processing new information or picking up new concepts 

As the disease progresses, the following symptoms may develop:

  • Difficulty in recognizing faces
  • Increasing confusion and short-term memory loss
  • Increased feelings of restlessness
  • The shorter span of attention
  • Difficulty in writing, reading, and identifying numbers
  • Loss of appetite
  • Neglect in hygiene
  • Need for extra assistance in daily tasks
  • Changes in personality like mood swings and unusual aggression

Later Stages Symptoms of Alzheimer

As the disease reaches the later stages, the symptoms experienced may be: 

  • Inability to use speech or understand what someone is saying
  • Inability to recognize oneself, family, or friends
  • Increase in immobility and sleeping time
  • Severe disorientation 
  • A constant state of confusion

The changes brought about by this disease can be challenging for friends and family members. Although your loved ones may lose many abilities as the disease progresses, there are ways to help them. Start by focusing on the abilities that they don't lose, such as hearing, sense of touch, and being able to respond to emotions. These abilities can help them through the process.

Alzheimer's Facts

Despite the fact that most people have heard of Alzheimer's disease, it's still useful to be informed. These are some important specifics about this condition:

  • Alzheimer's disease is a persistent, chronic (long-term) illness. It is not a common indication of aging

    Dementia and Alzheimer's disease are not the same thing. A type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease

    Its symptoms appear gradually, and its degenerative effects on the brain result in a steady decline

  • Alzheimer's disease can affect anyone, but some people are more vulnerable to it than others. This includes people over 65 and those with a family history of the illness
  • Alzheimer's patients cannot be predicted to have a particular outcome. Some people live a long period with minor cognitive damage, whereas others experience a faster start of symptoms and speedier disease development
  • Although there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's, medication can help the illness grow more slowly and may enhance the quality of life
  • The course of Alzheimer's disease differs for every individual
Alzheimer's Disease -41

Alzheimer's Stages

The signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's will progressively worsen over time because it is a progressive illness. The following are the seven major stages:

Stages 1-3: Mild cognitive impairment and pre-dementia

Stage 1: At this stage, there are no symptoms. If you have no symptoms but a family history of Alzheimer's, you might want to discuss healthy aging techniques with your doctor.Stage 2: The first symptoms start to show, like forgetfulness.Stage 3: Mild physical and mental impairments, such as a decline in memory and focus, begin to appear. Developing new abilities could get more difficult. Only those who are relatively close to the person may detect these changes.

Stages 4–7: Dementia

Stage 4: At this point, Alzheimer's is frequently identified, but it is still regarded as moderate. It's typical to experience memory loss and difficulties handling daily duties.Stage 5: Help from family members or caregivers will be necessary for moderate to severe symptoms. This is required to ensure that necessities like household management and eating meals are fulfilled daily.Stage 6: A person with Alzheimer's at this stage will require assistance with everyday activities like eating, dressing, and using the restroom.Stage 7: This is the ultimate and most severe stage of Alzheimer's. Speech and facial expressions typically get worse over time. Movement is probably going to be limited.

Types of Alzheimer's Disease

The same symptoms of memory loss, confusion, difficulty performing previously familiar tasks, and difficulty making decisions will eventually affect nearly everyone with Alzheimer's disease. All varieties of Alzheimer's appear to share an excessive production and/or impaired clearance of a type of protein known as amyloid beta peptides. The exact mechanism by which the illness develops is yet unknown. Though the symptoms are identical, there are two basic kinds of the condition.

Alzheimer's with early onset:

People under the age of 65 are the ones who experience this type. When the condition is discovered, people are frequently in their 40s or 50s. Up to 5% of all Alzheimer's patients have early onset, which is extremely uncommon. It is more likely to occur in people with Down syndrome. According to researchers, there are a few ways early-onset Alzheimer's differs from other forms of the illness. It causes more brain abnormalities in people associated with Alzheimer's, such as forming plaques and tangles and reducing brain volume. Additionally, it appears that chromosome 14 is the region of a person's DNA that is defective in the early-onset form. Myoclonus, a type of muscular spasm and twitching, is also more frequent in people with early-onset Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's with a late onset:

The condition, which affects those 65 and older, most frequently manifests in this form. In families, it might or might not run. Researchers haven't yet identified a specific gene that causes it. Nobody is certain of the reasons why some people experience it while others do not.

Familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD):

Doctors are certain that this form of Alzheimer's disease is inherited. Members of at least two generations have suffered the illness in affected families. Less than 1% of all instances of Alzheimer's are caused by FAD. The majority of those with early-onset Alzheimer's have FAD.


Diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease

Steps involved in reaching the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease are:

  • Neurological tests
  • Physical examination
  • Brain scans
  • Urine and blood tests
  • Assessment of psychiatric and medical history 
  • Assessment of mental status to determine mental deterioration
  • Scans to check brain functions like MRI, CT, and PET

Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

One of the illnesses that individuals most desire to avoid is Alzheimer's, and for a good reason. It cannot be stopped by any known methods. But there are many things you can do to lessen your risk of contracting it.

Although aging and your genes are beyond your control, there are still things you may do to combat the condition. Actually, the same foods that are healthy for your heart and the rest of your body may also help you reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. And many of them are straightforward daily activities.

Maintain the numbers

According to research, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all strongly associated with Alzheimer's disease. Many people are unaware that they suffer from these illnesses. A checkup might reveal this. Additionally, you and your doctor can manage any health issues you may have.

Check your weight

It may also assist in lessening your risk if you start working to lose weight and keep it off if you have a lot of weight to lose. According to one study, obesity can alter the brain, increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Work out your body

Even a tiny bit of exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which improves brain health. Aim for five or more days a week with at least 30 minutes of exercise.

Engage your brain: Alzheimer's disease may be less likely to affect people who continue to study and remain social. Although it's not entirely obvious yet, mental stimulation might act as a kind of brain exercise.

Buckle up

Years from now, Alzheimer's disease may become more likely if you suffer a head injury in a car accident or fall off a bike without a helmet. Also, look around your house for potential tripping hazards, such as area rugs without sticky padding to keep them in place.

Avoid smoking

Avoid using tobacco in any manner.

Diet: Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products as part of a heart-healthy diet. Limit alcohol, added sugars, carbohydrates, sodium, saturated fat (found in meats and full-fat dairy products), and other added sweets.

Alzheimer's Tests

Alzheimer's disease cannot be detected using a reliable test. However, your doctor can make a diagnosis with the aid of mental, physical, neurological, and imaging testing.

A mental status examination may be the first step taken by your doctor. This can aid them in evaluating your:

  • Short-term memory
  • Long-term memory
  • Orienting yourself to space and time

Then they'll probably perform a physical examination. For instance, they might:

  • Take your blood pressure number
  • Determine your heart rate
  • Check your temperature
  • Some situations require a urine or blood test

Your doctor may also perform a neurological examination to rule out other potential illnesses, such as sudden medical conditions like an infection or stroke. In this examination, they will look at your:

  • Reflexes
  • Muscular tone
  • Speech

Additionally, your doctor might ask for brain imaging tests. These examinations, which will produce mental images of you, could involve:

  • A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: MRIs can be used to detect important signs like inflammation, haemorrhage, and structural problems.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: CT scans produce X-ray images that your doctor can use to search for unusual features in your brain.

Blood tests to look for genes that may indicate you have a higher chance of Alzheimer's disease are among the additional examinations your doctor may perform.

Treatment for Alzheimer's Disease

There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease; symptoms can be managed by way of treatment. This includes

  • Providing memory aid solutions
  • Treating the medical conditions that may cause confusion or further physical decline 
  • Participating in activities that act as stimulants
  • Encouraging social interaction to avoid a feeling of depression and loneliness
  • Using support groups for extra aid
  • Quitting smoking
  • Encouraging creating a routine to reduce confusion 

There are medications available to help control Alzheimer's disease signs and symptoms, but they should be taken under the guidance of your doctor.

Alzheimer's Medication

Alzheimer's disease currently has no known treatment. Your doctor may suggest drugs and other therapies help you with your symptoms and stop the disease's progression as much as possible.

Your doctor might suggest drugs like rivastigmine (Exelon) or donepezil (Aricept) for mild to moderate Alzheimer's. These medications can support your brain's ability to maintain high levels of acetylcholine. As a result, your brain's nerve cells may be able to send and receive impulses more effectively. Consequently, certain Alzheimer's symptoms might be lessened.

Only patients with early Alzheimer's are advised to take the more recent medicine, aducanumab (Aduhelm). It is believed to lessen the accumulation of protein plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer's. However, there are questions regarding whether the drug's potential advantages outweigh its hazards.

Your medical professional might suggest memantine (Namenda) or donepezil (Aricept) to treat moderate to advanced Alzheimer's disease. Memantine can aid in preventing the effects of too much glutamate. In Alzheimer's disease, glutamate, a brain chemical, is produced in larger amounts and harms brain cells.

To help treat Alzheimer's symptoms, your doctor can also suggest antipsychotics, antidepressants, or anxiety drugs. Depending on how the condition develops, these symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Difficulties falling asleep at night
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations

Although a person with Alzheimer's will need more care as time goes on, each person will distinctly experience the disease.

Additional Read: Stroke in Brain

Alzheimer's disease is difficult to live with, but it is not the end of things. Be aware of the services required by people suffering from Alzheimer's disease to help them live a better life. You can book doctor consultations online on Bajaj Finserv Health to get answers about Alzheimer's and other age-related health conditions from experts. You can also browse the Aarogya Care Plans to look for health insurance schemes that are suitable for you and your family members. In this time and age, it is always better to be prepared and secure with regard to healthcare.

Published on 21 Apr 2022Last updated on 12 Apr 2023

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

Dr. Archana Shukla

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Archana Shukla

, MBBS 1 , MD - Psychiatry 3


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