Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. This debilitating condition is characterized by the gradual loss of memory, cognition, and ability to perform daily activities that is a form of dementia.
While this disease is typically associated with aging, some people may develop a young onset of an uncommon form of Alzheimer’s. We are going to explore what early onset Alzheimer’s is, how it differs from regular Alzheimer’s disease, and what steps you can take if you or a family member is experiencing symptoms.
Early onset Alzheimer’s disease (EOAD) is a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease that usually affects individuals under the age of 65. The onset of EOAD typically occurs between the ages of 40 and 65, with some cases reported in individuals as young as 30 years old. EOAD is estimated to affect around 5% of all Alzheimer’s cases. Learning what symptoms there are and how they affect your family is important when dealing with a situation that deals with this sort of disease.
Symptoms of Early Onset Alzheimer’s
The symptoms of EOAD are similar to those of regular Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals with EOAD may experience mild cognitive impairment side effects including:
- Memory loss.
- Difficulty performing daily tasks.
- Changes in mood and behavior.
However, the disease progresses more quickly in individuals with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. This is because the brains of younger individuals with EOAD are less able to compensate for the damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease with mental abilities. These changes make life difficult and add even more strain to those who have Alzheimer’s. Below is a comprehensive list of the symptoms that the disease affects daily life.
- Loss of memory that can disrupt regular life
- Poor judgment which leads to bad decisions
- Becoming less spontaneous or feeling less initiative
- Forgetting the days of the week or forgetting their location
- Spending more time on simple daily activities or familiar tasks
- Repeating questions or forgetting to ask questions
- Difficulty handling finances
- Unable to follow through on plans
- Difficulty in problem solving
- Forgetting to do basic hygiene
- Mood swings or changes in personality and behavior changes
- Higher levels of aggression or anxiety
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is recommended to seek and accurate diagnosis from medical health professionals. Tests are available to test these conditions at a young age which may include brain imaging and other diagnosis tools.
Causes of Early Onset Alzheimer’s
The causes of EOAD are not fully understood. While the majority of young onset Alzheimer’s cases are not directly caused by genetics, there are certain known genetic mutations that have been linked to develop Alzheimer’s. Individuals with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease have an increased risk for the genetic mutation cases where the disease develops for younger people.
There are three single-gene mutations associated with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease. Mutations in these genes result in the production of abnormal proteins that are associated with the disease.
- Amyloid precursor protein (APP) on chromosome 21
- Presenilin 1 (PSEN1) on chromosome 14
- Presenilin 2 (PSEN2) on chromosome 1
This is because there are specific gene mutations that can be inherited from parents that increase the risk of developing the disease. These mutations are responsible for a condition known as familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD). While FAD only accounts for a small percentage of all dementia cases including Alzheimer’s, it is an important area of research for scientists trying to better understand the disease.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Early Onset Alzheimer’s
Again, if you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of EOAD, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional as soon as possible. A diagnosis of the early stages can help individuals and their families plan for the future and make informed decisions about their care. A diagnosis of EOAD is typically made based on a combination of factors, including medical history, physical and neurological exams, cognitive tests, and imaging tests.
While there is no cure for EOAD, there are treatments available that can help manage side effects and improve quality of life. Medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine can be prescribed to help improve cognition and memory. Lifestyle modifications, such as exercise and a healthy diet, may also be beneficial in managing physical and emotional conditions of EOAD. There are memory care communities that can specifically meet the medical needs for any of the many forms of dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association is a great resource for individuals and families affected by EOAD. The organization offers support groups, educational resources, and advocacy initiatives aimed at raising awareness about the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association also offers genetic testing for individuals who are at risk of developing EOAD due to a family history of the disease.
Early onset Alzheimer’s is not a common form of Alzheimer’s disease that affects individuals under the age of 65. While the causes of early onset EOAD are not fully understood, genetics are known to play a role in the disease. If you or a loved one is experiencing conditions of EOAD, it is important to speak with a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
An early diagnosis can help individuals and their families plan for the future and make informed decisions about their care. The Alzheimer’s Association is a great resource for individuals and families affected by EOAD, offering support, education, and advocacy.