ZocdocAnswersWhat are the signs of early alzheimer's?

Question

What are the signs of early alzheimer's?

I'm a woman, almost 50, and I have a question about my brain. I have become very forgetful in the last year or so, including some very scary moments where I couldn't remember the names of loved ones. How would I know whether this is alzheimer's in the earliest stages or just normal forgetfulness for someone my age going through menopause?

Answer

Dementia is the biggest fear for many of us. The fact that you have had some episodes of forgetfulness means you should be evaluated soon. There are many different types of physicians who treat dementia including cognitive neurologists, neuropsychiatrists, geriatricians, and general internal medicine doctors. The earliest signs of Alzheimer's dementia include memory loss of recently learned facts and trouble remembering new facts. Patient's typically do not have trouble with remembering old things such as family member names. This would argue against Alzheimer's in your case (but doesn't rule it out). Other causes of memory problems include a malfunctioning thyroid gland and vitamin B 12 deficiency. These would need to be tested for. Other more rare causes of forgetfulness include head trauma, Huntington's disease, and brain tumors. Since you do not have a dementia diagnosis, you should first see your primary care physician (family doctor or internal medicine doctor). He or she will be able to perform a mental status exam which will be able to tease out if you are experiencing any signs of dementia. If the test is positive, then you should get a full work up including looking for thyroid problems, vitamin B 12 deficiency, and a MRI of the brain. I hope you get to the bottom of this issue.

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