- Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
- What is early-onset Alzheimer disease?
- What causes early-onset Alzheimer disease?
- What are the risks for early-onset Alzheimer disease?
- What are the symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer disease?
- How is early-onset Alzheimer disease diagnosed?
- How is early-onset Alzheimer disease treated?
- Can early-onset Alzheimer disease be prevented?
- Living with early-onset Alzheimer disease
- Alzheimer’s can occur in 30s & 40s: Common signs include repeating questions, becoming suspicious of others
- World No Tobacco Day: Smoking Can Hurt Eyes, Bones And Brain
- Young onset dementia facts & figures
- Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Found in Young Adults
- Beta Amyloid Plaques Found in the Brains of Young Adults
- Earlier Prevention and Intervention
- What Are the Signs of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)?
- Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease: A Resource List
- General Resources
- Living with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s
- Legal and Financial Planning
- Clinical Studies and Trials
- What causes young-onset dementia?
- Young-onset of common dementias
- About Alzheimer’s
- When Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Strikes
- Diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s at Age 30
- Using Their Experience to Raise Alzheimer’s Awareness
Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
What is early-onset Alzheimer disease?
Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia. It affects your memory, thinking, and behavior. It often progresses to the point where it affects daily activities and functions.
Alzheimer disease most commonly affects older adults, but it can also affect people in their 30s or 40s. When Alzheimer disease occurs in someone under age 65, it is known as early-onset (or younger-onset) Alzheimer disease.
A very small number of people with Alzheimer disease have the early-onset form. Many of them are in their 40s and 50s when the disease takes hold.
Most types of early-onset Alzheimer disease are the same, but there are a few small distinctions:
Common Alzheimer disease. Most people with early-onset Alzheimer disease have the common form of the disease. The disease progresses in roughly the same way as it does in older people.
Genetic (familial) Alzheimer disease. This form is very rare. A few hundred people have genes that directly contribute to Alzheimer disease. These people start showing symptoms of the disease in their 30s, 40s, or 50s.
What causes early-onset Alzheimer disease?
Experts don’t know what triggers the start of Alzheimer disease. They suspect that 2 proteins damage and kill nerve cells. Fragments of one protein, beta-amyloid, build up and are called plaques. Twisted fibers of another protein, tau, are called tangles. Almost everyone develops plaques and tangles as they age. But those with Alzheimer disease develop many, many more. At first, these plaques and tangles damage the memory areas of the brain. Over time, they affect more areas of the brain. Experts don’t know why some people develop so many plaques and tangles, or how they spread and damage the brain.
What are the risks for early-onset Alzheimer disease?
Family history of the disease is the only known risk factor at this time.
What are the symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer disease?
For most people with early-onset Alzheimer disease, the symptoms closely mirror those of other forms of Alzheimer disease.
Forgetting important things, particularly newly learned information or important dates
Asking for the same information again and again
Trouble solving basic problems, such as keeping track of bills or following a favorite recipe
Losing track of the date or time of year
Losing track of where you are and how you got there
Trouble with depth perception or other vision problems
Trouble joining conversations or finding the right word for something
Misplacing things and not being able to retrace your steps to find it
Increasingly poor judgment
Withdrawal from work and social situations
Changes in mood and personality
Severe mood swings and behavior changes
Deepening confusion about time, place, and life events
Suspicions about friends, family, or caregivers
Trouble speaking, swallowing, or walking
Severe memory loss
How is early-onset Alzheimer disease diagnosed?
The current diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer disease relies on detecting the signs of mental decline noted above. Your healthcare provider can then diagnose Alzheimer disease with a few tests.
First, your healthcare provider asks about your health history, and also does cognitive tests of memory, problem solving, and other mental skills. Depending on the results of the office-based cognitive testing, your provider may also request that you have more detailed testing done with a neuropsychologist. Your provider might also test your blood, urine, and spinal fluid. You may also need certain imaging test such as CT and MRI scans of your brain. These give your provider a closer look at brain tissue to show how much damage there is.
In the future, researchers hope that studies on biomarkers will allow experts to diagnose the disease more quickly. Biomarkers are proteins in the body, or other types of markers, that reliably indicate the progress of a disease.
How is early-onset Alzheimer disease treated?
Early-onset Alzheimer disease currently has no cure. But healthcare providers have been successful in helping people maintain their mental function, control behavior, and slow the progress of the disease.
Medicines are used to help people maintain mental function. They include:
Results have been mixed, but these medicines seem to help people with their symptoms for anywhere from a few months to a few years.
Other treatments that may play a role in slowing the progress of early-onset Alzheimer disease include physical activity, cardiovascular and diabetes treatments, antioxidants, and cognitive training. A number of studies are ongoing in this area, and researchers are learning new things about Alzheimer disease every day.
Can early-onset Alzheimer disease be prevented?
Experts don’t know how to prevent Alzheimer disease. Recently, some evidence showed that detecting the disease early can lead to better treatment options. It’s best to look for any of the early warning signs mentioned above and see your healthcare provider immediately if you notice any.
Living with early-onset Alzheimer disease
Early-onset Alzheimer disease can be a difficult disease to cope with. It helps to have a positive outlook and to stay as active and mentally engaged as possible.
It’s also important to realize that you are not alone. Rely on your friends and family as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to seek out a support group, if you feel that it might be helpful.
When the disease is still in its early stages, it’s critical to think about the future. This can include financial planning, working with employers on current and potential job responsibilities, clarifying health insurance coverage, and getting all your important documents in order should your health take a turn for the worse.
Although Alzheimer disease has no cure, you can make the best of a bad situation by keeping your mind and your body as healthy as possible. This can include eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, cutting down on alcohol, and using relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
Alzheimer’s can occur in 30s & 40s: Common signs include repeating questions, becoming suspicious of others
By Dr Kalyani Karkare
Most people fail to realise that loss of memory could be a sign of an irreversible and progressive brain disorder. They mistake Alzheimer’s disease for normal ageing. The most common cause of dementia, an umbrella term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities, Alzheimer’s is typically diagnosed in patients over 65 years of age. However, there are cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s too, which occur in patients in their 30s and 40s.
Although the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is not known yet, researchers believe that a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors are responsible for the disease named after Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist.
In 1906, he was the first to find the prime suspects — plaques (called as amyloid plaques) and tangles (also known as neurofibrillary tangles) — in damaging and killing nerve cells in the brain.
Alzheimer’s worsens over time. The key is to watch out for early symptoms, which can eventually get so bad that they hamper one’s ability to carry out simple, day-to-day tasks.
The symptoms differ from person to person. In the early stages, non-memory functions can show deterioration in the form of word-finding difficulty, visuo-spatial disorientation and impaired judgement.
However, the common signs include difficulty in remembering things (especially newly-learned information), repeating questions, losing one’s way in familiar places, taking longer with daily self-care tasks, behaviour changes (becoming aggressive or suspicious of others), difficulty in swallowing and speaking coherently, and inability to walk without support.
Research shows that damage to the brain starts years before the symptoms appear. Hallucinations, delusions and paranoia are often indications that the disease has progressed beyond the early stage. People with severe Alzheimer’s are likely to become completely dependent on others for their care.
A complex disease, Alzheimer’s cannot be cured or its progression reversed by any medication, therapy, or intervention.
There are a few USFDA-approved medications for early Alzheimer’s disease like rivastigmine, donepezil and memantine, which work by regulating neurotransmitters (chemicals in brain). However, early diagnosis and treatment can help slow down the symptoms, help preserve daily functioning for longer, and improve the quality of life not just for people with Alzheimer’s, but also their caregivers.
Support groups for patients and caregivers can form a pivotal role in Alzheimer’s care.
Studies suggests that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts, staying physically fit and mentally active as well as quitting smoking and cutting down on alcohol can reduce your risk or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.
There’s no denying the importance of engaging in mentally-stimulating pursuits — say, learning a new language or a skill — to keep cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s at bay. It definitely helps to have an active social life, especially as one gets older.
(The writer is a Consultant Neurologist at Sagar Hospital)
World No Tobacco Day: Smoking Can Hurt Eyes, Bones And Brain
31 May, 2018Most smokers believe smoking is cool. No matter how you indulge in it, tobacco is harmful to your health. Tobacco contains over 7,000 toxins and 70 known carcinogens (chemicals that increase cancer risk) and can damage nearly every organ of the body. Dr Sachin Kumar, Senior Consultant – Pulmonology at Sakra World Hospital explains how smoking affects every part of your body. The next time you are tempted to take a drag, just pause for a minute and think of the consequences of your indulgence.
Young onset dementia facts & figures
As with dementia generally, there is conflicting information about the prevalence of young onset dementia. The low levels of awareness and the difficulties of diagnosing the condition at working-age mean popularly used statistics are likely to be inaccurate and do not reflect the true number of people who are affected.
About young onset dementia
- Dementia is ‘young onset’ when it affects people of working age, usually between 30 and 65 years old. It is also referred to as ‘early onset’ or ‘working-age’ dementia.
- Dementia is a degeneration of the brain that causes a progressive decline in people’s ability to think, reason, communicate and remember. Their personality, behaviour and mood can also be affected. Everyone’s experience of dementia is unique and the progression of the condition varies. Some symptoms are more likely to occur with certain types of dementia.
Prevalence of young onset dementia in the UK
- It is estimated that there are 42,325 people in the UK who have been diagnosed with young onset dementia. (Ref Dementia UK, 2nd edition 2014, Alzheimer’s Society). They represent around 5% of the 850,000 people with dementia. For the overview report click here.
- The actual figure could be higher because of the difficulties of diagnosing the condition and might be closer to 6-9% of all people with dementia. Awareness amongst GPs is still relatively low and when people are still at work, symptoms are often attributed to stress or depression.
- Dementias that affect younger people can be rare and difficult to recognise. People can also be very reluctant to accept there is anything wrong when they are otherwise fit and well, and they may put off visiting their doctor.
- People with young onset dementia are more likely to be diagnosed with rarer forms of dementia and are more likely to have a genetically inherited form of dementia.
- Prevalence rates for young onset dementia in black and minority ethnic groups are higher than for the population as a whole. People from BAME backgrounds are less likely to receive a diagnosis or support.
- People with a learning disability are at greater risk of developing dementia at a younger age. Studies have shown that one in ten people with a learning disability develop young onset Alzheimer’s disease between the age of 50 to 65. The number of people with Down’s syndrome who develop Alzheimer’s disease is even greater with one in 50 developing the condition aged 30-39, one in ten aged 40-49 and one in three people with Down’s syndrome will have Alzheimer’s in their 50s. For more information about learning disabilty and young onset, please click here.
Common types of dementia in younger people
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in younger people, accounting for around a third of young people with dementia.
- Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia in young people. Around 20% of young people with dementia have vascular dementia.
- Around 12% of young people with dementia have frontotemporal dementia. It most commonly occurs between the ages of 45-65. In about 40% of cases there is a family history of the condtion.
- Korsakoff’s syndrome – around 10% of dementias in young people are caused by a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine), most commonly associated with alcohol abuse.
- Around 10% of young people with dementia have dementia with Lewy bodies.
- Around 20% of young people with dementia have a ‘rarer’ form of the condition. Examples include conditions that can lead to dementia including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Creutzfeld Jakob disease.
John took the first step himself and went to his GP. His doctor told him he needed to use his brain more. John had recently completed his Masters degree!
– Liz, supporting her brother John, with FTD
The impact of dementia for younger people and their families
- Although younger people experience similar symptoms to older people with dementia, the impact on their lives is much greater. Younger people are more likely to still be working when they are diagnosed. Many will have significant financial commitments such as a mortgage. They often have children to care for and dependent parents too.
- Their lives tend to be more active and they have hopes, dreams and ambitions to fulfil up to and beyond their retirement.
The importance of language
- The language used to talk about younger people with dementia can strongly influence how others treat or view them, and how they feel about themselves.
- For example, referring to people with dementia as ‘sufferers’ or as ‘victims’ implies that they are helpless. This not only strips people of their dignity and self-esteem, it reinforces inaccurate stereotypes and heightens the fear and stigma surrounding dementia.
- Young onset dementia is not necessarily the defining aspect of someone’s identity. They are a person first and should always be described, and treated, as such. Life does not stop when dementia starts.
- Using the correct terms avoids confusion. There are many forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is just one of them and the terms are not interchangeable.
- ‘Young onset’ or ‘working-age’ dementia are preferable terms to ‘early onset’ dementia so as to avoid confusion with the early stages of dementia generally.
The Dementia Engagement & Empowerment Project (DEEP) has published a dementia language guide. ‘Dementia words matter: guidelines on language about dementia’ has been written in collaboration with people who have dementia. To download this useful and informative guide, please click here.
Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Found in Young Adults
While age is the number one risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, Alzheimer’s is not a natural part of aging and the disease affects more than just the senior age group. In fact, a recent study has found evidence of amyloid buildup in the brains of people as young as 20 years old. Learn more about this study and what it means for the future of Alzheimer’s research.
Beta Amyloid Plaques Found in the Brains of Young Adults
A new study lead by Changiz Geula, a research professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, found evidence of Alzheimer’s disease in the brains of deceased adults as young as 20 years old. The research team analyzed the brains of 13 people between the ages of 20-66 with no health issues, 14 people without dementia between the ages of 70-99, and 21 brains of people with Alzheimer’s between the ages of 60-95. They observed that toxic amyloid buildup was evident irrelevant of age and health.
Amyloid buildup is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, which is commonly found in the brains of seniors who have the disease. “Amyloid is bad,” said Geula. “We don’t know the exact mechanism by which it causes damage, or if amyloid buildup is the main trigger for Alzheimer’s, so we can’t say that it actually causes the disease. But for a long time we have known that it causes toxic damage, and it cannot be good for you when it accumulates.”
He went on to say that to find the accumulation of amyloid inside nerve cells of individuals as young as 20 was very surprising.
Earlier Prevention and Intervention
Researchers plan to look at a larger number of seniors to determine if the ones with higher amyloid build up have a higher risk for Alzheimer’s or dementia. Because of the smaller sample size of this study, it was hard to determine how much variability there is among the general population. Some seniors in the study were found to have the same amount of amyloid buildup that was also seen in the brains of younger adults.
Dr. Yvette Sheline, professor of psychiatry, radiology and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, noted that while it was interesting to see amyloid accumulation at an early age, the findings were based on a small handful of brain samples and that it was impossible to know if the younger adults would ultimately develop Alzheimer’s, or if beta-amyloid accumulation is a normal part of human physiology.
Taking into consideration the small sample size, other researchers believe the new findings may be instrumental in providing insight into the beginning of Alzheimer’s. Geula is hopeful that the findings of his team will lead to early intervention and a new way to treat the disease. He said:
“The implication appears to be that if we want to prevent these clumps from forming when a person becomes old, we may need to intervene much earlier than we have thought, to try and get rid of amyloid very early in life.”
What are your thoughts on this study? Do you think that the accumulation of amyloid that potentially leads to Alzheimer’s can begin in someone as young as 20? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
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What Are the Signs of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)?
AD is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is a general term for the loss of memory functions or other mental abilities that affect your daily life. You or a loved one may be developing early onset AD if you experience any of the following:
You or a loved one may begin to appear more forgetful than normal. Forgetting important dates or events can occur. If questions become repetitive and frequent reminders are required, you should see your doctor.
Difficulty planning and solving problems
AD may become more apparent if you or a loved one has difficulty developing and following a plan of action. Working with numbers may also become difficult.
This can often be seen when you or a family member begins to demonstrate problems maintaining monthly bills or a checkbook.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
Some people may experience a greater problem with concentration. Routine day-to-day tasks requiring critical thought may take longer as the disease progresses.
The ability to drive safely may also be called into question. If you or a loved one gets lost while driving a commonly traveled route, this may be a symptom of AD.
Difficulty determining time or place
Losing track of dates and misunderstanding the passage of time as it occurs are also two common symptoms. Planning for future events can become difficult since they aren’t immediately occurring.
As symptoms progress, people with AD can become increasingly forgetful about where they are, how they got there, or why they’re there.
Vision problems can also occur. This may be as simple as an increased difficulty in reading. You or a loved one may also begin to have problems judging distance and determining contrast or color when driving.
Difficulty finding the right words
Initiating or joining in on conversations may appear difficult. Conversations may randomly be paused in the middle, as you or a loved one may forget how to finish a sentence.
Because of this, repetitive conversations can occur. You may have difficulty finding the right words for specific items.
Misplacing items often
You or a loved one may begin putting items in unusual places. It may become more difficult to retrace the steps to find any lost items. This may lead you or a loved one to think that others are stealing.
Difficulty making decisions
Financial choices may demonstrate poor judgment. This symptom often causes detrimental financial effects. An example of this is donating large amounts of money to telemarketers.
Physical hygiene also becomes less of a concern. You or a loved one may experience a rapid decline in bathing frequency and a lack of willingness to change clothing on a daily basis.
As symptoms appear, you may notice that you or a loved one becomes increasingly withdrawn from common social events, work projects, or hobbies that were previously important. Avoidance can increase as the symptoms worsen.
Experiencing personality and mood changes
Extreme swings in mood and personality may occur. A noticeable change in moods may include:
You may notice that you or your loved one is increasingly irritated when something outside of a normal routine takes place.
The exact cause of early onset AD hasn’t been fully determined. Many researchers believe that this disease develops as the result of multiple factors rather than one specific cause.
Researchers have discovered rare genes that may directly cause or contribute to AD. These genes may be carried from one generation to the next within a family. Carrying this gene can result in adults younger than 65 years old developing symptoms much earlier than expected.
These genes are estimated to be the cause of less than 5 percent of diagnoses. Research is ongoing at this time.
Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease: A Resource List
Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease occurs between a person’s 30s to mid-60s. It is rare, representing less than 10 percent of all people who have Alzheimer’s. People with this disorder are younger than those with late-onset Alzheimer’s and face different issues, such as dealing with disability at work, raising children, and finding the right support groups.
This resource list offers a selection of materials that may help people with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, their families, and caregivers. All of the resources on this list are free and accessible online.
Visit the National Institute on Aging’s (NIA’s) Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral Center for free publications, caregiving resources, and more information about Alzheimer’s.
The items on this list are organized by these categories:
- General Resources
- Living with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s
- Legal and Financial Planning
- Clinical Studies and Trials
Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Fact Sheet (2019)
This fact sheet explains basic genetics and the genetic mutations and risk factors involved in early- and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It also describes genetic testing, with links for more information.
Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
This short overview explains the differences between early- and late-onset Alzheimer’s, common symptoms, and how the disease is diagnosed. It provides tips for managing early-onset Alzheimer’s through drug and nondrug approaches.
Published by Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (2019)
This article describes the key differences between the early- and late-onset forms of Alzheimer’s disease, including initial signs and symptoms, as well as treatment options. Links to other resources from the BrightFocus Foundation are provided.
Published by the BrightFocus Foundation.
Early-Onset Alzheimer’s: When Symptoms Begin Before Age 65 (2019)
In this online fact sheet, a neuropsychologist answers questions about early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Topics covered include how and why the disease often runs in families, the advisability of genetic testing, coping at work, and changes in family relationships.
Published by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
Early Onset Familial AD
This special section of the science website Alzforum features three articles about familial Alzheimer’s disease, an inherited form of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Written for affected individuals, family members, doctors, and care providers, the articles offer reliable, up-to-date information about diagnosis, treatment, genetic counseling and testing, life issues related to the disorder, and research. A database of clinics with expertise in early-onset dementia is provided.
Published by Alzforum.
What You Should Know About Early-Onset Alzheimer’s (2015)
Although early-onset Alzheimer’s has a different age of onset and genetic profile than the late-onset form of the disease, the symptoms and treatment are much the same, this article explains. Dr. Mary Sano, director of Alzheimer’s disease research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, discusses the difference between normal middle-aged forgetfulness and a serious memory problem.
Published by Health.com.
Younger/Early Onset Alzheimer’s
This web page explains the disorder, providing information about diagnosis, causes, family impact, and sources of help. The information is also provided in Spanish.
Published by the Alzheimer’s Association.
Living with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s
If You Have Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
This online article offers advice about living with early-onset Alzheimer’s. It discusses how the disease may impact families and employment, the need to plan ahead, and different types of insurance and benefits that can help people with the disease.
Published by the Alzheimer’s Association.
Young Onset Dementia (2019)
This online tip sheet suggests ways to live well with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Accepting the disease and making changes at home and at work are key. Tips are given for financial planning, health and safety, and relationships.
Published by the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
People with early-onset Alzheimer’s who don’t have access to employer-sponsored health insurance may be able to buy insurance through a federal or state exchange. This federal government website allows consumers to shop for and compare health insurance plans. All plans included in this government database must cover treatment for pre-existing medical conditions.
Available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Phone: 1-800-318-2596.
Legal and Financial Planning
Legal and Financial Planning for People with Alzheimer’s (2017)
Advance planning ideally takes place soon after a diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, while the person can still think clearly and make decisions. This web page explains the basics of legal and financial planning and links to helpful NIA publications. A Spanish-language version is provided.
Social Security Compassionate Allowances Program
This program allows people with designated serious diseases and disorders, including early-onset Alzheimer’s, to have their applications for Social Security disability benefits reviewed quickly. See the Compassionate Allowances information on early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Published by the Social Security Administration. Phone: 1-800-772-1213. Email: [email protected]
Alzheimer’s Caregiving Information from the National Institute on Aging
Get Alzheimer’s care information and advice from NIA, including information on daily care, sundowning and other behaviors, and more.
Early Onset Dementia: Advice for Caregivers
Partners of people with early-onset dementia must often take on added responsibilities in addition to caring for the person with dementia. This fact sheet offers advice on changes to expect and ways to reduce stress.
Published by the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (Canada).
Clinical Studies and Trials
Participating in Alzheimer’s Disease Research (2017)
Learn what’s involved in volunteering for Alzheimer’s research. Read about benefits and risks, questions to ask, participant safety, and placebos.
Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network (DIAN)
Adult children with a biological parent who has a known genetic mutation for Alzheimer’s are invited to sign up for the DIAN registry. The purpose of this study is to identify potential biomarkers that may predict the development of Alzheimer’s in people who carry an Alzheimer’s mutation.
To search for more clinical studies and trials, visit NIA’s clinical trials finder
This content is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure that it is accurate, authoritative, and up to date.
Content reviewed: January 30, 2020
What causes young-onset dementia?
The most common causes of young-onset dementia are the same progressive diseases that cause most cases of dementia in older people.
Studies have produced a range of figures that show the causes of young-onset dementia. It is clear that the mix of causes of young-onset dementia is different from that in older people. The same disease in younger people can also have different symptoms.
It is also sometimes thought that dementia progresses more rapidly in younger than in older people, but the evidence for this is not strong.
Young-onset of common dementias
Alzheimer’s disease develops when proteins build up in the brain to form structures called ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia in younger people and may affect around a third of younger people with dementia. However, this is a much smaller proportion than in older people with the condition, up to two thirds of whom have Alzheimer’s disease.
Another difference is that younger people are much more likely to have an ‘atypical’ (unusual) form of Alzheimer’s disease than older people. Atypical Alzheimer’s disease is when the first symptoms are not memory loss, which is the most common symptom of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, the first symptoms are usually problems with vision (in posterior cortical atrophy), speech (in logopenic aphasia) or planning, decision-making and behaviour (in frontal variant Alzheimer’s disease).
These atypical forms of Alzheimer’s disease account for up to one third of all Alzheimer’s disease in younger people but only 5% of all Alzheimer’s disease in older people. For more see our page, What is Alzheimer’s disease?
In some people with young-onset Alzheimer’s disease there is a very clear inheritance of the disease from one generation to the next. This genetic form of dementia – familial Alzheimer’s disease – is caused by rare mutations (defects) in three genes. These mutations are found in between 7 and 12% of all people with young-onset Alzheimer’s.
Symptoms of familial Alzheimer’s disease usually start in someone’s 30s, 40s or 50s. The earlier the symptoms start, the more likely the disease is to be genetic. However, familial Alzheimer’s disease is extremely rare. It affects only about 500 known families worldwide and probably accounts for much less than 1% of Alzheimer’s disease when all ages, young or old, are considered.
People with Down’s syndrome and other learning disabilities can also develop dementia at an early age. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia in people with Down’s syndrome. This increased risk is thought to be associated with the extra copy of chromosome 21 which most people with Down’s syndrome have. Chromosome 21 carries the gene for amyloid which forms the plaques in Alzheimer’s disease.
Daniel Bradbury, 30, from Nottinghamshire, is believed to be one of the youngest people in the country to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (Picture: SWNS)
A dad-of-two has become one of Britain’s youngest Alzheimer’s victims after being diagnosed at the age of 30.
Daniel Bradbury inherited the devastating disease from his father and has been warned his 18-month-old twins have a 50% chance of developing it in later life.
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He began showing symptoms of the disease in July last year when he lost his engineering job because bosses said he was ‘under-performing’.
The former Aerospace worker went to his GP and following a series of tests, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last September.
Blood tests revealed he had the rare PSEN1 gene mutation which is a common cause of early onset-Alzheimer.
Daniel, pictured with partner Jordan Evans, 29, went to his GP and following a series of tests, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last September. (Picture: SWNS)
Tragically, his own father Adrian died from the disease in 1999 aged 36. Sufferers who inherit PSEN1 from their parents usually die around the same age.
Daniel, who lives with partner Jordan Evans and their twins Lola and Jasper, is trying to raise money to take his family on a final holiday before his memories fade.
He said: ‘I try not to think about it. I live day by day with both good days and bad days. It does not just affect me, it affects everyone around me as well.
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‘I do not know how long I have till it takes a real hold on me. I want to be as much of a dad as I can for as long as I can be.
‘As my memory fades I am hoping to create lasting memories for my partner and our children so that one day they can look back on the videos and photos of us all together and cherish them.
‘I remember my dad going through it in 1999. The doctors didn’t know he had Alzheimer’s at that time but it was horrible to watch.
‘I realised something was wrong at work when I struggled to grasp problems and concentrate. I was lethargic and couldn’t remember how things worked.
‘When I am asked about what the future holds I just say that I think about providing memories for Jordan and the kids. They are the ones who matter.’
Daniel lives with partner Jordan and their twins Lola and Jasper (Picture: SWNS)
Daniel, who suffers from short-term memory loss, confusion and problems with his balance, has been warned to expect the symptoms to accelerate because of his young age.
He was told there was a chance he had the condition when Jordan was four months pregnant in early 2016, but decided not to get tested at the time.
But after his twins’ first birthday, his symptoms started becoming more pronounced so he went to his doctor who told him he had been living with the disease for a year.
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Tragically, he has been warned his two children have a 50% chance of being diagnosed with the disease when they reach their 30s.
They cannot be tested for the gene until they are 18 due to laws on patients finding out about genetic conditions.
Daniel’s brother Sean, 28, has already been tested for the disease and has been given the all clear but his younger brother Alex, 23, has decided he does not want to find out.
NHS worker Jordan, 29, said the family were now in a race against time to make cherished family memories before Daniel becomes too ill.
Daniel has been warned his two children have a 50% chance of being diagnosed with the disease when they reach their 30s (Picture: SWNS)
- There are two different types of Alzheimer’s disease – a very rare form that can be inherited from a single gene from a parent, and the much more common type that is not inherited.
- It’s estimated that around 600 families worldwide have the inherited type, also called familial Alzheimer’s disease that is passed down through the family.
- People with one of these rare genetic changes tend to develop the disease at a young age, even in their 30s or 40s.
- People with dementia whose symptoms started before they were 65 are often described as having young-onset dementia, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have one of the inherited forms of the disease.
- Although inherited Alzheimer’s tends to affect people at a young age, it only accounts for a tiny proportion of the 42,000 people in the UK with young-onset dementia.
- Young-onset dementia is not usually inherited. However, around one in 10 people with young-onset dementia will have inherited it.
- If you have concerns about any form of dementia, Alzheimer’s Society National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 can provide information, support and guidance.
She said: ‘We had a suspicion something was not right but were praying that it was not this.
‘We were very shocked and devastated by the diagnosis. It was particularly difficult to hear that the children have a chance of getting it too.
‘We have tried to find out about getting them tested for the gene but they cannot legally be tested until they are 18 and they must make the decision for themselves.
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‘Daniel’s dad died in 1999 but at the time the cause of death was put down as neurodegeneration on the death certificate.
‘Because of his age, the hospital kept samples of his brain for future research.
‘Daniel had a brain scan after he started feeling very lethargic in January 2016 and that’s when his dad’s brain samples were tested in a lab in Edinburgh and the results came back that he had Alzheimer’s and Daniel may have inherited the same gene.
‘Daniel found this out when I was pregnant but we didn’t want to find out for definite because it was a happy time.
Sufferers who inherit PSEN1 from their parents usually die around the same age. (Picture: SWNS)
‘When he lost his job in the summer because he was under performing we knew something wasn’t right so he went to the doctors and in September was told it was Alzheimer’s.
‘It’s been really hard for us but we are determined to live every day to the fullest.
‘We try and have some non-Alzheimer’s days when we do not talk about it. When the babies get older they can remember how great a dad he was.’
The pair, who met 12 years ago, have set up a Justgiving page to raise £10,000 to take their children on the trip to Disneyland Florida later this year.
Daniel also hopes to use the money to tick off a number of things on his bucket list, including a sky dive with his brothers.
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Daniel and Jordan, who met 12 years ago, have set up a Justgiving page to raise £10,000 to take their children on the trip to Disneyland Florida later this year. (Picture: SWNS)
Jordan added: ‘We want to raise as much as possible to have a trip as a family and create memories for the kids.
‘We were hoping to take them when they were older and can remember it, but that is not a possibility now.
‘It will mean a lot to be happy as a family, to look back and remember all the good times that we had.”
The couple have raised more than £2,000 since the page was set up on Tuesday.
Clare Walton, from Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Dementia is not a natural part of ageing and it doesn’t just affect older people.
‘Over 40,000 people under 65 in the UK have dementia, including people in their 30s and 40s.
‘The needs of younger people with dementia are very different to those of older people and there is a shortage of age appropriate services in the UK.
‘Alzheimer’s Society is currently funding research which we hope will improve diagnosis and support for people with younger onset dementia.”
To donate to Daniel’s fund, donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/daniel-patrick-bradbury
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When Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Strikes
Alzheimer’s is often thought of as a disease that only affects seniors. While age can bring an increased risk, Alzheimer’s disease can also strike early, leaving families confused and heartbroken.
Learn more about one family’s personal battle with early onset Alzheimer’s at age 30.
Diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s at Age 30
Ken Dodson was told he had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 30. With a new home, a wife and three young children, the diagnosis was a shocking blow to the family.
His wife knew something was wrong when Ken forgot familiar things, like how to get home from the grocery store. He was getting headaches and his memory loss even led to him losing his job.
At first, Ken was put on anti-depressants, but when the symptoms did not improve after months of medication, Ken and his wife Nikki went to see a neurologist who diagnosed him with early-onset Alzheimer’s a week before his 30th birthday.
The couple has faced many difficulties as they struggled to find resources to deal with the diagnosis, as most services are only offered for caregivers of senior parents or loved ones.
Meanwhile, the disease is taking an emotional and financial toll on the family as they have lost their friends, insurance and jobs because of it.
Using Their Experience to Raise Alzheimer’s Awareness
Nikki has taken over caring full time for her husband. She speaks about her new life, saying:
“Some days I’m still a wife, but most days, I’m a caregiver. I’ve lost the man that I married. He’s another man now, and I still love him, but it’s so different. I just keep trying to be the best wife and mother I can be.”
Nikki is also using her personal experiences with early onset Alzheimer’s to raise awareness about the disease to help the other 200,000 Americans living with it. She strives to make as many connections as she can, will be featured in a documentary from Lauren and Seth Rogen’s Alzheimer’s Awareness organization “Hilarity for Charity,” and has written a children’s book about Alzheimer’s.
She says that she knows her efforts to raise awareness cannot save her husband from the disease. But, she hopes that by helping others she will beat Alzheimer’s in a way.
“I know my efforts to make other people aware of Alzheimer’s are not going to help Ken; I know it’s not going to save him. But if it’s going to help my children or my nephew, or somebody else, then I’ll feel that Alzheimer’s didn’t beat us — we beat it. We hope that people will hear our story and know that this disease can happen to anybody. We also hope that sharing our story will save others from having to go through some of the difficulties we’ve undergone.”
Do you know someone impacted by early-onset Alzheimer’s? We’d like to hear more about your experiences or stories in the comments below.
- I Have Alzheimer’s, Now What?
- Living with Early-Onset Dementia
- Support Groups for Those with Early Onset Alzheimer’s