Echolalia may be a symptom of early-stage Alzheimer’s – Best Life


Echolalia may be a symptom of early-stage Alzheimer's - Best Life

Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease that causes the brain to shrink, ultimately destroying memory and disrupting other important cognitive functions. Aside from its effect on memory, however, several other symptoms can help alert you to the onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Such a symptom has been known to alter patients’ speech, and those who have it tend to spice up conversations with an odd pattern that doctors may spot as a red flag. Read on to learn what language-related symptom might indicate early onset Alzheimer’s disease and how to spot it in yourself or others.

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Worried man working at home with headache

Alzheimer’s disease is most common in seniors over the age of 65, but those with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease may start noticing symptoms as early as their 40s and 50s. These patients often face unique challenges due to their life stage, including having to care for young children, demanding careers, and aging parents.

“Because healthcare providers generally do not screen for Alzheimer’s disease in younger people, obtaining an accurate diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s can be a long and frustrating process,” experts at the Alzheimer’s Association said. “The symptoms can be misattributed to stress, or there can be conflicting diagnoses from different healthcare professionals. People living with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease can be in any stage of dementia—early stage, mid-stage, or late stage. The disease affects each person differently and symptoms vary,” they add.

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mature couple talking at home

While many Alzheimer’s symptoms are subtle and therefore more likely to be attributed to stress, exhaustion, or some other health condition, one specific symptom may stand out: echolalia, in which people repeat things that others have said in a conversation.

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

Women talk while walking

Echolalia can sound different from patient to patient, but knowing the range of presentations can help you spot the symptom sooner rather than later.

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

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Woman talking to a doctor

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

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

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

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