Echolalia may be an early-onset symptom of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disease that causes the brain to shrink, eventually destroying memory and disrupting other important cognitive functions. Apart from its impact on memory, however, several other symptoms can help you prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. One of these symptoms is known to impair speech in patients, and those who suffer from it tend to embellish conversations with an odd pattern that doctors may recognize as a red flag. Read on to find out which speech-related symptom could indicate an early onset of Alzheimer’s disease and how to recognize it in yourself or others.

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Alzheimer’s disease most often occurs in people over the age of 65, but people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease may begin to notice symptoms as early as their 40s and 50s. These patients often face a specific set of challenges due to their life stage, as they may have young children, demanding careers, and aging parents to care for, among other responsibilities.

“Since health care providers do not typically look for Alzheimer’s disease in young people, getting an accurate diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s disease can be a long and frustrating process,” say Alzheimer’s experts. Association. “Symptoms may be incorrectly attributed to stress, or there may be conflicting diagnoses from different healthcare professionals. People with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease may be at any stage of dementia – early stage, middle stage or advanced stage. The disease affects each person differently and symptoms will vary,” they add.

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mature couple talking at home

While many symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are subtle and therefore more likely to be mistakenly attributed to stress, exhaustion or another health problem, one particular symptom may stand out: echolalia, in which people repeat what others have said in conversation.

It turns out that this type of verbal repetition is surprisingly common among people with Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, a 2017 study published in the journal International Psychogeriatrics found that verbal repetition occurred in more than 47% of patients with dementia. “Verbal repetition was more common in people with mild dementia compared to those with moderate and severe dementia and in those with Alzheimer’s disease compared to other dementias,” the researchers wrote. “Overall, verbal repetition was the most common of 60 possible symptoms reported as a surveillance target, in 807 individuals.”

Women talking while walking

Echolalia can look different from patient to patient, but knowing its range of presentations can help you identify the symptom as early as possible.

People with echolalia may repeat words or phrases immediately after hearing them, after a brief pause, or in some cases even hours or days after a conversation has ended. Some people repeat the words exactly as they heard them, while others change the wording slightly.

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Woman talking to female doctor

If you notice signs of echolalia in yourself or someone else, don’t panic: Alzheimer’s disease is not the only possible explanation for this symptom. It is important to see a doctor who can help you determine if verbal repetition is related to dementia.

Beyond Alzheimer’s disease, echolalia can be caused by other neurodegenerative disorders, head injury or trauma, delirium, Tourette syndrome, encephalitis, stroke, epilepsy and schizophrenia. When the symptom appears in young children, it is often considered a possible sign of autism, although it may also be part of normal language development at this age.

Tell your doctor if you notice verbal repetitions in your own or someone else’s speech. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, you may be able to slow its progression with the help of your doctor.

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