Alzheimers disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimers, symptoms first appear in their mid 60s. Alzheimers disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.
Signs and Symptoms
Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimers disease. Some people with memory problems have a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI). In MCI, people have more memory problems than normal for their age, but their symptoms do not interfere with their everyday lives. Movement difficulties and problems with the sense of smell have also been linked to MCI. Older people with MCI are at greater risk for developing Alzheimers, but not all of them do. Some may even go back to normal cognition. The first symptoms of Alzheimers vary from person to person. For many, decline in non-memory aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may signal the very early stages of Alzheimers disease. Researchers are studying biomarkers (biological signs of disease found in brain images, cerebrospinal fluid, and blood) to see if they can detect early changes in the brains of people with MCI and in cognitively normal people who may be at greater risk for Alzheimers. Studies indicate that such early detection may be possible, but more research is needed before these techniques can be relied upon to diagnose Alzheimers disease in everyday medical practice.