Alzheimer's symptoms and signs

At first the only symptom may be mild forgetfulness. As the disease progresses, different aspects of brain functioning become impaired.

Alzheimer's disease begins slowly and at first the only symptom may be mild forgetfulness. People with Alzheimer's disease may have trouble remembering appointments, recent events, names of people and things, and they may have difficulty finding their way in a familiar neighbourhood. In the initial stages such difficulties may be bothersome, but it usually does not cause alarm.

As the disease progresses, functioning in activities of daily living becomes more and more difficult. Different aspects of brain functioning then become clearly impaired.

Brain functions affected in Alzheimer's disease

Memory Initially short-term memory affected, later short and long-term memory.
Language Difficulty naming objects. Later comprehension diminishes. Spontaneous speech affected.
Agnosia Difficulty recognising people and identifying objects.
Apraxia Inability to perform motor tasks.
Executive functions Inability to plan and organise.
Personality changes Apathy; aggressiveness; disinhibition.


Read more about symptoms and signs.

Written by Dr Frans Hugo, MBChB, M.Med Psychiatry and Dr L. Van Wyk, MBChB, M. Med (Psych) from the Panorama Memory Clinic.

For more information visit: Dementia SA: or Alzheimer’s South Africa:

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