Alzheimer’s often develops slowly over several years, so symptoms are not always obvious at first.

Alzheimer’s often develops slowly over several years, so symptoms are not always obvious at first. A loss of interest and enjoyment in day-to-day activities can often be one of the first changes, but this can be subtle and may be mistaken for other conditions such as depression. In the early stages of the disease, it can also be difficult to distinguish memory problems associated with Alzheimer’s from mild forgetfulness that can be seen in normal ageing.

Typical early symptoms of Alzheimer’s may include:

  • Memory problems like regularly forgetting recent events, names and faces.
  • Becoming increasingly repetitive, e.g. repeating questions after a very short interval or repeating behaviours and routines.
  • Regularly misplacing items or putting them in odd places.
  • Confusion about the date or time of day.
  • People may be unsure of their whereabouts or get lost, particularly in unfamiliar places.
  • Problems communicating or finding the right words.
  • Some people become low in mood, anxious or irritable. Others may lose self-confidence or show less interest in what’s happening around them.

As the disease develops

Alzheimer’s develops over time, but the speed of change varies between people. As Alzheimer’s progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Memory and thinking skills. People will find that their ability to remember, think and make decisions worsens.
  • Communication and language become more difficult.
  • People may have difficulty recognising household objects or familiar faces.
  • Carrying out day-to-day tasks becomes harder, for example using a TV remote control, phone or kitchen appliance. People may also have difficulty locating objects in front of them.
  • Changes in sleep patterns often occur.
  • Some people become sad, depressed or frustrated about the challenges they face. Anxieties are also common, and people may seek extra reassurance or become fearful or suspicious.
  • People may have problems walking, be unsteady on their feet, find swallowing food more difficult or have seizures.
  • People may experience hallucinations, where they see or hear things that are not there. Others may believe things to be true that haven’t actually happened, known as ‘delusions’.
  • People gradually require more help with daily activities like dressing, eating and using the toilet.

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Find out more about the symptoms and causes of Alzheimer's disease, and the treatments currently available.

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This information was updated in June 2020 and is due for review in June 2022. It does not replace any advice that doctors, pharmacists or nurses may give you. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.

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