We often associate Alzheimer’s disease with old age. And yet, 5 percent of all cases develop among individuals under the age of 65. We call this type of dementia early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s can be a regular form of the disease simply manifesting at a younger age, but in most cases, it’s a genetic form passed on from one generation to the next. If one of your parents or grand-parents suffered from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, you have a greater risk of developing this type of dementia as well.
As with the more common form that develops in the elderly, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease manifests gradually. Early signs can include memory loss, reduced attention span and concentration, errors in judgment and problems with spatial orientation (getting lost) or temporal awareness (not knowing the current year).
Since in this case the signs are appearing in younger individuals, they are not usually dismissed as simply “getting old.” On the other hand, for the same reason, Alzheimer’s may not be suspected, which could delay diagnosis.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease does not necessarily progress more rapidly than the regular form of the disease. However, the disease can have a bigger personal and professional impact since it strikes while the individual is usually still working and might even still have children at home.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, visit the Alzheimer Society of Canada website: www.alzheimer.ca.