Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder in which the memory and important cognitive functions of the brain get destroyed steadily because of damage and degeneration of the neuronal cells. It is one of the most important reasons behind dementia. Patients affected by Alzheimer’s disease become socially and intellectually incapacitated. The changes become severe enough to interfere with the normal routine activities and the patient becomes dependent upon his caregivers to survive.
Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
Although Alzheimer’s disease is progressive in nature, physicians have classified it into four major stages depending upon its symptoms. Let us look at the four stages of Alzheimer’s disease in detail and discuss the symptoms of each stage.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
One starts to notice small changes in the cognitive functions of the brain in this stage. Among the changes seen, forgetfulness seems to be the most common in patients who will develop Alzheimer’s at a later stage. This memory loss is termed as amnestic mild cognitive impairment. Apart from memory loss, patients may complain of impairment in judgment or reasoning, finding a proper word to describe a situation and visual issues. Patients may also complain of difficulties in recalling incidents. It is very difficult to predict how many patients who show signs of mild cognitive impairment would go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Mild Alzheimer’s Disease
This stage of Alzheimer’s disease lasts for two to four years. Some of the common symptoms seen in this stage include:
- Patients appear to be lethargic and listless. The drive to start new projects or complete the old ones is missing and they need to be nudged to complete their work.
- There is a decrease in the level of social activities. Patients appear to be withdrawn and prefer to spend their time alone watching television, going off to sleep or simply sitting in the chair doing nothing.
- The patients face difficulties in recalling recent incidents and events. They tend to forget names and may repeat the same questions over and over again.
- The patients may experience slight problem with coordination. They may find it difficult to write, button their shirts and hold familiar objects clumsily.
- There may be mood swings and frequent episodes of depression.
- The patients may find it to follow simple instructions like understanding the steps in a recipe book, etc.
Although these symptoms are commonly seen in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, they may also be seen in patients with other metabolic disorders, like thyroid, Parkinson’s disease, people with drug dependency, or those suffering from stress and depression.
Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease
This stage usually lasts from two to ten years. Some of the common symptoms seen in this stage include:
- Memory loss becomes more severe and starts effecting day to day activities.
- Patients may start forgetting the names of their near and dear ones, their address, and important details of their lives like when they got married or from where they did their schooling.
- Tendency to get lost as the patients may not remember their way even in familiar places.
- Speech may become incoherent as the patients forget the right words and use wrong words instead.
- The quality of speech can be described as rambling.
- Patients may become disoriented about time and place.
- They may forget whether they have eaten their food. They may not dress according to the weather,
- They may find it difficult to solve simple problems.
- There may be sleeping problems.
- Patients may suffer from delusions and may mistrust even their near and dear ones.
- Patients are aware of these changes within them and become depressed as a consequence.
Severe Alzheimer’s Disease
This stage generally lasts for one to three years. The common symptoms are:
- Complete disorientation
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Difficulty in controlling bladder and bowel movement.
- Severe mood swings.
- Weight loss, seizures, etc.
Patients in this stage are unable of looking after themselves. They are totally dependent even for basic functions and require a lot of care.