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Alzheimer's Disease

Weight Loss

People maintain their weight bybalancingthe energy that they take in and the energy that they expend. Weight loss occurs when people either eat less, or expend more energy. Weight loss is a troubling symptom in Alzheimer's disease , because it is can also be a sign of a serious illness, such as cancer, in which the illness itself consumes energy. Therefore many patients and families worry, and many physicians feel compelled to search for illness - especially cancer - in someone who is losing weight.

As it turns out, weight loss can also occur in Alzheimer's disease in the absence of other serious illnesses and the reason of why this is so is not clear. Sometimes the answer is easy. The person with Alzheimer's disease is eating less. Early in the course of the illness, eating less may be a sign of a loss of the sense of taste and/or smell, or a sign of depression . This can also be a sign of decreased ability to prepare meals. Lastly, eating less can be a sign of a serious illness. Other problems experienced by people are tooth and dental problems, decreased sense of taste, especially for sweet and salty foods, and even poor vision.

Later in the course of Alzheimer's disease, eating less can also be a sign of forgetting to eat or decreased appetite due to brain damage. In the United States, this can lead to the question of whether the person with advanced Alzheimer's disease should be fed by a tube. In many other countries, tube feeding is very uncommon and people with Alzheimer's disease are instead allowed to die.

A common observation, but one that is less easy to understand, is that people with Alzheimer's disease can lose weight even if they eat just as much as they have always eaten. Sometimes, the cause is easy to understand - with fidgeting or pacing , as they are expanding more energy. Other times however, there is no obvious explanation, and this raises the dilemma of whether weight loss is likely due to Alzheimer's disease, or whether it might be due to another condition. Interestingly, in some people weight loss occurs prior to the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and the disease itself explains the weight loss. Many problems can be associated with weight loss and malnutrition , such as an increased risk of infection, pressure ulcers and falls.

See Also:
Symptom Library > Memory & Language > Memory of Recent Events
Symptom Library > Physical Changes > Balance
Symptom Library > Physical Changes > Sensory Input
Symptom Library > Behaviour > Repetitive Behaviour
Symptom Library > Physical Changes > Mobility
About Dementia > Alzheimer's Disease > Natural Progression and Staging
Symptom Library > Behaviour > Wandering
Symptom Library > Behaviour > Appetite
Symptom Library > Everyday Activities > Meal Preparation/Cooking
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Last updated August 20, 2014
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