Normal Aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Dementia

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Many individuals start experiencing memory loss and fear that they have dementia. Family members and loved ones, you may be seeing changes in someone's behavior and wonder if they are possibly developing dementia; you are not alone! If you are experiencing some memory loss problems, it does not necessarily mean that you have dementia. There are several other possible explanations for your memory loss, including:

There are very early signs and symptoms of dementia, mild cognitive impairment, mild dementia, moderate dementia, and severe dementia.

Very Early Signs and Symptoms
Biomarkers are indicators, such as changes in sensory abilities, or substances that appear in body fluids like blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or urine. Biomarkers can indicate exposure to a substance, the presence of a disease, or the progression of a disease over time. Such tools are critical to helping scientists detect and understand the very early signs and symptoms of dementia.

Mild Cognitive Impairment
You are growing older and developing memory problems greater than what is expected for your age, but you are not experiencing personality changes or other problems that are characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers cannot yet definitively say that people with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) will or will not go on to develop Alzheimer's disease/dementia, or if its progress to Alzheimer's disease/dementia can be prevented or delayed. Studies have shown that if you are experiencing MCI and also having trouble moving your legs and feet, you may be twice as likely to later develop Alzheimer's disease.

Mild Dementia
Signs and symptoms include memory loss, confusion about the location of familiar places, taking longer than usual to accomplish normal daily tasks, trouble handling money and paying bills, poor judgment leading to bad decisions, loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative, mood and personality changes, increased anxiety or aggression.

Moderate Dementia
Signs and symptoms include increased memory loss and confusion, shortened attention span, inappropriate angry outbursts, problem recognizing family and close friends, difficulty with language (reading, writing, numbers), inability to learn new things or cope with unexpected situations, difficulty organizing thoughts and thinking logically, repetitive statements or movements, occasional muscle twitches, restlessness, agitation, anxiety, tearfulness, wandering (especially in late afternoon or at night), hallucinations, delusions, suspiciousness, paranoia, irritability, loss of impulse control, inability to carry out activities that involve multiple steps in sequence (getting dressed, making coffee, setting the table).

Severe Dementia
Signs and symptoms include weight loss, seizures, skin infections, difficulty swallowing, increased sleep, groaning, moaning or grunting, lack of bladder or bowel control.

If you feel that your condition is not related to outside causes, or that you may fall under one of the above categories, you should consider making an appointment with a physician or other medical specialist.