What Are the Symptoms of Early Onset Alzheimer’s?

It’s one of those jokes people make all the time when they forget to do something: “Maybe it’s early onset Alzheimer’s!”

But when you’re facing this debilitating disease, nothing about early warning signs of Alzheimer’s are funny. Some people start experiencing symptoms at incredibly young ages, even in their 40s and 50s. So how do you know if it’s just normal forgetfulness or your body is beginning to show signs of the disease? Here’s what to watch out for.

dementia Alzheimers

Alzheimer’s | wildpixel/iStock/Getty Images

1. You’re increasingly forgetful

When you lead a busy life, it’s normal to forget things every once in a while. But this common issues is also one of the first signs of early onset Alzheimer’s and should be taken very seriously.

“We don’t want to worry people that when they can’t remember a name or a word, that they’re on their way to Alzheimer’s,” Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Genetics and Aging Research Unit told Reader’s Digest. “As we get older, our brain isn’t as good. Wear and tear, and inflammation, affect the brain much like it affects our joints.”

But if you are frequently having trouble remembering recent events and conversations – and if it’s happening more and more frequently – then it’s time to talk to your doctor.

2. You keep losing things

Misplacing the remote might be a nightly event in your household, but if you’re constantly losing track of your glasses, keys, phone, wallet, and other daily use items, it could be a sign of early onset Alzheimer’s.

The Mayo Clinic warns that people with Alzheimer’s “may routinely misplace possessions, often putting them in illogical locations.” So if you keep putting your keys in the freezer, it’s not just silly – it could be serious.

3. You keep repeating things

When friends and family notice you’re saying the same things over and over without realizing it, it may be time to get evaluated for early onset Alzheimer’s. This is especially true if you ask the same question in a short time span and don’t recall the answer.

4. Sleep patterns change

You may find yourself having trouble falling asleep, staying up later, waking up multiple times in a night, or getting tired during the day. All these changes in sleep patterns could be indicators of early onset Alzheimer’s.

5. You have trouble doing basic tasks

Your brain will experience slower processing speeds as you age – that’s a natural part of getting older. But someone suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s might experience a significant lack of ability to accomplish tasks that were simple months or even weeks prior. This exaggerated slowdown could be a major warning sign.

6. You experience confusion

Feeling confused is a part of life – but when it happens frequently and causes major frustration, it could be something more serious. Forgetting how to drive home from work or having no concept of the year are some examples of extreme confusion you shouldn’t ignore.

A man comforting his father who has dementia

A man comforting his father who has dementia | MonkeyBusinessImages/Getty Images

7. Change in personality

Feeling depressed? More irritable than usual? About 40-50% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s experience extreme mood changes that might include mood swings, anxiety, aggression, anger, fear, suspicion, and loss of inhibition.

8. Trouble writing or speaking

You know that foggy headed feeling you have when you first wake up? If you get that way when you’re trying to write or speak and are constantly misspelling words, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Not being able to think of a word is common – but when it happens all the time, it might be a sign of early onset Alzheimer’s.

9. You want to withdraw from life

As you start experiencing symptoms, you may start withdrawing from friends and family and losing interest in activities you used to enjoy. If you usually use knitting as a stress relief and lately you can’t stand the thought of taking up your needles, it may be a sign that something is wrong.

10. You experience vision problems

Needing reading glasses is fairly typical once you hit middle age. But if you’re noticing rapid changes in your vision, have difficulty discerning colors or distance, or are just having a hard time seeing in general, it might be a symptom of something more serious.

11. It runs in the family

Early onset Alzheimer’s could have a genetic component. If someone in your family suffered from the disease early or later in life, you are naturally more likely to suffer from it, too.

12. Your family or friends think you may have it

It’s often easy to downplay symptoms when they’re happening to you directly. But when people close to you start noticing something’s amiss, it may be time to talk to your doctor.

Early onset Alzheimer’s is not the end of the world. The best way to fight back about the worst effects is to have a knowledge of what’s going on in the first place. Discuss these things with your doctor as early as possible!