Fast Five Quiz: Alzheimer's Disease Signs and Symptoms

Jasvinder P. Chawla, MD, MBA; Shaheen E. Lakhan, MD, PhD, MS, MEd


September 11, 2023

Forgetfulness is typical in the normal course of aging. But forgetting recent events, conversations, or newly acquired information might be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease because changes typically begin in the part of the brain that affects learning.

Still, there is overlap between the pathologic signs of normal aging and the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Cerebral atrophy is significantly greater in patients with Alzheimer's disease than individuals who are aging normally, yet cerebral atrophy can be present in older adults who are healthy.

Oxidative stress is believed to play an influential role both in normal aging and in Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Generally, formation of free carbonyls and thiobarbituric acid-reactive products, an index of oxidative damage, is largely elevated in the brain tissue of patients with Alzheimer's disease compared with the brain tissue of age-matched control individuals.

The formation of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) might result first in malfunctions in communication between neurons and later in the death of the cells. Both senile plaques and NFTs are hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease, but even they are not pathognomonic. NFTs can be found in other neurodegenerative disorders such as progressive supranuclear palsy and dementia pugilistica (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Senile plaques, too, might appear in normal aging.

Learn more about the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease.


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