What is Early Onset Alzheimer’s?

When we discuss Alzheimer’s, we are generally focused on the group of people over 65 years of age that suffer from the disease. However, there is a small population of adults younger than 65 years of age that suffer from Alzheimer’s. We call this early onset Alzheimer’s, and it can be especially hard for patients and loved ones. Nearly 200,000 people in the United States suffer from early onset Alzheimer’s, nearly 5% of all people suffering from the disease. Early onset strikes people who are typically in their 40’s and 50’s, in the prime of their adulthood.

Causes

A large cause of early onset Alzheimer’s could be related to genetics. Those that have the specific Alzheimer’s gene could develop early signs in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. However, for the most part, scientists do not understand why some individuals develop early onset Alzheimer’s.

Symptoms

The symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s are very similar to those with Alzheimer’s. These can include memory loss, trouble completing familiar tasks, difficulty solving problems, losing track of time and dates, difficulty finding the right words, trouble making decisions, misplacing items often, withdrawing from social events, and personality and mood changes. These symptoms may start out mild, and become increasingly worse with time.

Diagnosis

An accurate diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s is difficult but is crucial in receiving proper treatment. Doctors typically aren’t generally looking for Alzheimer’s disease in younger patients, so getting the proper diagnosis can be hard. Symptoms may be wrongly attributed to stress, menopause, or depression. This can lead to a misdiagnosis, and therefore incorrect treatment. If you think you are experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, it’s important to visit an Alzheimer’s specialist and receive a comprehensive medical evaluation.

A diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s can be devastating. Many people diagnosed are still working, parenting, and possibly caregiving for someone else. If you believe you are experiencing signs, getting the proper help and treatment early on is important.