Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common types of dementia. Although Alzheimer’s is commonly associated with old age, the disease is thought to be caused by the death of brain cells and an imbalance of neurotransmitters rather than the effect of old age. It is a progressive disease and over time the patient will slowly deteriorate, so if you have a loved one affected by Alzheimer’s, how fast does Alzheimer’s progress?
Alzheimer’s affects different people in different ways and the progress of the disease will vary greatly between different individuals. Some people deteriorate very swiftly from when the early symptoms of the disease first become evident, whereas others can live for many years with the disease, even though their quality of life will gradually diminish as Alzheimer’s takes its toll.
How fast does Alzheimer’s progress through the different stages of the disease?
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be split into three separate stages: stage I, stage II, and stage III. Each stage of the disease can easily last several years, or even longer if secondary health problems do not arise, so there is often no way of being sure how long a loved one will last once a firm diagnosis of Alzheimer’s has been made.
Because the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s stage I are often very vague, it can be very easy to mistake the signs of dementia as signs of normal aging. Memory loss and confusion are typical with stage I symptoms, but although you might assume that this is a normal part of growing older, it isn’t. Stage I is considered to be the “mild” stage of the disease as the symptoms are not generally bad enough to lead to a total loss of independence. On average, most people will show stage I symptoms of Alzheimer’s for between two and four years.
Stage II of the disease tends to be the longest stage of the disease and can last up to ten years. During this stage, the brain will sustain a lot of damage and the person will begin to show significant decline in all aspects of cognitive function, including language and reasoning skills. Complex tasks will become impossible and as the symptoms of the disease worsen, the person will eventually be unable to look after themselves properly.
The final stage, stage III, of Alzheimer’s disease is the shortest stage; it is also the most severe. The majority of patients last between one and three years and require round the clock care as they are utterly dependent on others to feed them, dress them, and help them perform even the most basic of functions.
However, it is important to remember that no two cases of Alzheimer’s are the same, and even though one person might die very quickly once the illness takes hold, another person could end up lasting twenty years or longer. Although there is no cure for the disease, there are some drug treatments available that can reduce or inhibit some of the symptoms, so if you suspect someone you know may be suffering from Alzheimer’s, it is important to get a proper diagnosis in order to slow down the relentless progress of the disease.