Alzheimer  >   2. Symptoms

Progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD) may be divided into several stages. The symptoms in each stage are described below. Their corresponding brain damages are illustrated in Chapter 3.

Very early signs

Memory problems are one of the first signs of AD. Some people with mild AD have a condition called amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI). People with MCI have more memory problems than normal people at their age, but their symptoms are not as severe as those with AD. More people with MCI go on to develop AD than those without MCI.

Mild AD

As AD progresses, memory loss continues and changes in other cognitive abilities appear. Symptoms in this stage can include:

  • getting lost
  • trouble handling money and paying bills
  • repeating questions
  • taking longer than before to complete normal daily tasks
  • poor judgment
  • losing things or misplacing them in odd places
  • mood and personality changes

In most people with AD, symptoms first appear after age 60. AD is often diagnosed at this stage.

Moderate AD

In moderate AD, damage occurs in areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought. Symptoms may include:

  • increased memory loss and confusion
  • problems recognizing family and friends
  • inability to learn new things
  • difficulty carrying out tasks that involve multiple steps (such as getting dressed)
  • problems coping with new situations
  • delusions and paranoia
  • impulsive behavior

Severe AD

People with severe AD cannot communicate and are completely dependent on others for their care. Near the end, the person with AD may be in bed most or all of the time. Their symptoms often include:

  • inability to recognize oneself or family
  • inability to communicate
  • weight loss
  • seizures
  • skin infections
  • difficulty swallowing
  • groaning, moaning, or grunting
  • increased sleeping
  • lack of control of bowel and bladder


[Adapted from: National Institute on Aging, USA]