Before being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, many individuals aren’t aware that this is not just a disease that affects the elderly. Being the most common form of dementia, it’s assumed by a large percentage of the population that only those in their later years show symptoms. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Although there is truth to this based on the majority of cases, Alzheimer’s can also affect individuals as early as their 30s or 40s. When individuals are diagnosed under the age of 65, this is what’s referred to as early-onset. Approximately 5 percent of those affected with Alzheimer’s suffer from this form.
Two Types of Early-Onset
Not only does early-onset exist, affecting approximately 200,000 in the United States, but there are two different types. Although individuals can be affected in their 30s, most cases are diagnosed when patients are in their 40s and 50s, as symptoms start to truly develop.
There are many similarities amongst the two types, however, there are some key differences. The first type, being the most common is referred to as common Alzheimer’s disease. Although diagnosed earlier, it tends to progress in the same manner as the cases that affect older individuals.
The second type is a genetic form and is extremely rare. In these cases, only a few hundred people display a specific gene mutation that’s been linked to familial Alzheimer’s disease. Based on this gene, those who carry it begin to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s as early as their 30s and as late as their 50s.
What Are Some of the Key Symptoms?
If you have been a little forgetful lately, no need to panic. There are plenty of factors that contribute to not being as sharp as you normally are. Stress, for instance, can affect your cognition, but there’s also normal age-related memory loss. With that being said, there are most certainly symptoms that are not normal and it’s critical to be aware so that you can seek a professional opinion as soon as possible. Some of the early symptoms include:
- Repeatedly needed to ask for the same information
- Forgetting newly learned information
- Losing track of where you are and what the date is
- Not being able to retrace your steps when misplacing objects
- Losing ability to pay bills or other basic daily tasks
- Changes in mood and personality
- Struggling to communicate and join conversations
- Lack of judgement
- Potential vision issues
Once this disease progresses, some of the later symptoms include severe mood swings, deepening confusion, severe memory loss, struggling to speak and walk, and more. The severity and the onset of certain symptoms may vary from person-to-person. The key is seeking assistance as soon as symptoms surface.
Like late-onset, there is no cure for early-onset Alzheimer’s. In some cases, health professionals have been able to intervene, reducing progression and helping their patients maintain higher levels of cognitive function and help control undesirable behaviors.
There are multiple drugs available, such as donepezil and galantamine which help reduce symptoms for a few months and in some cases, a few years. Depending on the situation and the individual patient,
there are various therapy options that can improve one’s circumstance. These include an increased consumption of antioxidants, diabetes treatment, cognitive training, physical therapy, and more.
Although there is not much you can do to reverse this disease, you can make a conscious effort to stay as healthy as possible. This means caring for both your body and mind. Maintain regular physical exercise, consume a balanced whole food diet, manage stress, quit smoking, and reduce your intake of alcohol.
John Hopkins (2014). Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Retrieved from http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/nervous_system_disorders/early-onset_alzheimers_disease_134,63/