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What Are the Signs of Alzheimer's Disease?

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By Report by the Agency for Hlth Care Pol & Research • • September 1, 1996

The classic sign of early Alzheimer's disease is gradual loss of short-term memory. Other signs include:

1. Problems finding or speaking the right word.

2. Inability to recognize objects.

3. Forgetting how to use simple, ordinary things, such as a pencil.

4. Forgetting to turn off the stove, close windows, or lock doors.

Mood and personality changes also may occur. Agitation, problems with memory, and poor judgment may cause unusual behavior. These symptoms vary from one person to the next. Symptoms appear gradually in persons with Alzheimer's disease but may progress more slowly in some persons than in others. In other forms of dementia, symptoms may appear suddenly or may come and go.

If you have some of these signs, this does not mean you have Alzheimer's disease. Anyone can have a lapse of memory or show poor judgment now and then. When such lapses become frequent or dangerous, however, you should tell your doctor about them immediately.

Possible Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

Do you have problems with any of these activities:

1. Learning and remembering new information. Do you repeat things that you say or do? Forget conversations or appointments? Forget where you put things?

2. Handling complex tasks. Do you have trouble performing tasks that require many steps such as balancing a checkbook or cooking a meal?

3. Reasoning ability. Do you have trouble solving everyday problems at work or home, such as knowing what to do if the bathroom is flooded?

4. Spatial ability and orientation. Do you have trouble driving or finding your way around familiar places?

5. Language. Do you have trouble finding the words to express what you want to say?

6. Behavior. Do you have trouble paying attention? Are you more irritable or less trusting than usual?

Remember, everyone has occasional memory lapses. Just because you can't recall where you put the car keys doesn't mean you have Alzheimer's disease.

Agency for Health Care Policy and Research(AHCPR)
Publication No. 96-0704
Clinical Practice Guideline, Number 19, Consumer Version
September 1996

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