Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, is often diagnosed in old age and becomes worse with time. While there are still many things that we don’t know about Alzheimer’s we are learning some of its earlier symptoms so that it can be diagnosed earlier. While there is currently not a cure for Alzheimer’s early diagnosis and treatment can help to manage it and slow its progression.
Researchers have found that just like cancer, many of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s are far more common than Alzheimer’s is. Some of these symptoms include trouble sleeping, irritability, and depression, which can also be symptoms of many other conditions or not symptoms of anything at all. These symptoms are seldom seen as indicative of Alzheimer’s because they present before memory loss, the most recognizable symptom that occurs only in the later stages. Genetics play a large role in dementia, so determining whether you’re genetically likely to get dementia can help to determine whether these issues are symptoms of Alzheimer’s, or something else.
One of the tell-tale signs of late-stage Alzheimer’s is the severe loss of grey matter, the parts of the brain that deal with thought and coordination. This leads to loss of coordination and memory, and sometimes to delusional thinking. Researchers have recently found that loss of grey matter can be detected through brain imaging much earlier than was previously known. While other serious symptoms usually manifest before a brain scan is ordered, this method can still help in earlier diagnoses that were previously available. While these symptoms too may be due to other conditions, research has found that Alzheimer’s may lead to the loss of grey matter from very distinctive locations leading to more accurate and earlier stage diagnoses.
I mentioned above that trouble sleeping might be an early symptom of Alzheimer’s, but there’s more to it than that. Our brains and bodies communicate through chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, and some studies have linked Alzheimer’s to imbalances in certain neurotransmitters including some involved in sleep/wake cycles and mood. In addition to presenting earlier, these symptoms are easier to diagnose and treat than holes in grey matter.
Certain ticks and other motor signals are also common symptoms of later stage Alzheimer’s that may appear earlier than was once thought, though they are not very pronounced at early stages. These symptoms tend to advance rapidly, however, so bringing them to the attention of a medical professional early on can be very important. While not all motor ticks are signs of Alzheimer’s, they are often symptoms of other conditions including nutrient deficiencies, stress, complications from drugs and medication, or other forms of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, so it’s probably a good idea to have them checked out anyway.
There are a lot of things that could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s but these potential symptoms are also signs of far less significant conditions, and the use of many of these symptoms to diagnose Alzheimer’s is still experimental. While it’s good to be on the lookout for suspicious symptoms, it’s best not to get too worked up too soon. After all, your twitch or lapse of memory might not be a symptom at all.