If You Notice This in the Bathroom, It Could Be an Early Alzheimer's Sign
This surprising sign may show up over a decade before diagnosis.
Right now, 6.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common form of dementia, and that number is only expected to rise in the coming years. That's why it's so crucial to recognize the signs of this neurodegenerative condition—especially those subtle symptoms that go beyond memory and cognition.
One recent study is highlighting a little-known symptom which you may notice while in the bathroom. Read on to learn which bathroom change could be an early Alzheimer's red flag, and what to do if you notice it.
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A recent study identified 10 signs associated with early Alzheimer's.
A Mar. 2022 study published in the medical journal The Lancet established 10 early warning signs of Alzheimer's disease. Using medical data from 39,672 individuals in the U.K. and France, the researchers reviewed symptoms experienced during the 15-year window before diagnosis to help identify early signs of the condition. Patients exhibited a total of 123 health conditions in the years prior to their Alzheimer's diagnosis. From there, the researchers identified the 10 most commonly associated with the neurodegenerative condition.
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You may notice this surprising symptom in the bathroom.
Perhaps the most surprising condition on the list is one you may notice while in the bathroom: the team writes that constipation is among the 10 most common health conditions associated with Alzheimer's. However, the researchers stopped short of establishing causality. "The question remains as to whether the health problems encountered are risk factors, symptoms, or warning signs of the disease," Thomas Nedelec, a researcher at the ICM Brain Institute in France and the lead study author, told The Sun.
Experts say many people with dementia are unaware of this connection, making them and their caregivers less likely to bring it up with their doctors. "As constipation is commonly ignored by dementia patients, it is not usually reported on time," says a 2020 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. However, that team adds that in the cohort they studied, "approximately 25.2 percent of dementia patients had constipation," and that it can have "a serious impact on the activity of daily living and quality of life in dementia patients."
Constipation affects roughly half of adults over 65.
In some patients with Alzheimer's disease, constipation appears to be a side effect of dementia medications. As such, it most often appears later in the course of the disease's progression, with an average onset of seven years after a dementia diagnosis. However, this study revealed that for some AD patients, constipation can occur earlier, and may help predict a future dementia diagnosis—especially when other symptoms are present.
That said, constipation is very common in adults over the age of 65, and experiencing it is by no means a sign that Alzheimer's is imminent. According to WebMD, roughly half of all adults over the age of 65 suffer from constipation. Experts recommend discussing your concerns with your medical provider if you experience problems with going to the bathroom—especially if you're going less than three times per week or experience pain when you do.
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The team also linked these other nine conditions to AD.
In addition to constipation, the study also identified nine other conditions that may appear in the years before an Alzheimer's diagnosis. These include major depression, anxiety, abnormal weight loss, reaction to severe stress, sleep disorders, hearing loss, a type of arthritis called cervical spondylosis, falls, and fatigue, The Sun reports.
"The connections made allowed us to confirm known associations, such as hearing problems or depression, and other less-known factors or early symptoms, such as cervical spondylosis or constipation. However, we are only reporting statistical associations. These will have to be the subject of further studies to understand the underlying mechanisms," Nedelec said in a statement.
If you believe you may be experiencing signs associated with Alzheimer's disease, speak with your healthcare provider.