Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. The symptoms typically begin in later life, though it can develop before the age of 65 (this is called early-onset Alzheimer’s disease). The disease is progressive and shortens lifespan.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease that tend to be noticed first are problems with recent memory, such as forgetting conversations, repeating questions, and misplacing items. As the disease progresses, more symptoms develop, such as problems with language, visuospatial function, executive function, and behavior.
There are variants of Alzheimer’s disease that can begin with non-memory symptoms as the first signs, such as posterior cortical atrophy (the visual variant of Alzheimer’s disease), logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia (the language variant of Alzheimer’s disease), and behavioral variant Alzheimer’s disease (which mimics a different type of dementia called behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia). These atypical forms of Alzheimer’s disease are more common in those with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but that does not mean that nothing can be done to help. The first step is a comprehensive evaluation to figure out the diagnosis, because even though Alzheimer’s disease is so common, the symptoms might instead represent a different type dementia, or there may be multiple treatable conditions affecting the person’s memory in addition to Alzheimer’s disease, and those should not be overlooked. Occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, and/or physical therapy may also be recommended.
References and Resources
- Alzheimer’s Association. 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimers Dement 2022;18. Available at https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures