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What Is Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted Mar 18 2010 5:48am


Early onset Alzheimer’s is considered when someone gets the form of dementia known as Alzheimer’s disease when they are younger than age 65. While Alzheimer’s disease itself is not a sure symptom of aging, it is not commonly seen in those that are this young. It is also very rare; only six to eight percent of those with the disease have early onset Alzheimer’s. This translates to roughly about 300,000 Americans who contract the disease each year.

Very rarely does someone get early onset Alzheimer’s in their thirties or forties. It is more common to see the disease when a person is in their fifties. The risk of contracting the disease of course increases with age.

Does Early Onset Alzheimer’s Progress at a Faster Rate?

Alzheimer’s disease is degenerative, meaning that it gets worse as time goes on. The rate at which it progresses is different for everyone. There seems to be a common misconception that early onset Alzheimer’s progresses faster than normal, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Hard data from actual research on patients does not support the thought that it will progress faster than any normal case of Alzheimer’s.

Special Considerations With Early Onset Alzheimer’s

Because Alzheimer’s is considered to be an old person’s disease, when someone has the early onset of the disease in their fifties, it’s often overlooked as being a medical condition. Alzheimer’s causes confusion, irritability, forgetfulness, and neglect of basic everyday routines such as hygiene and safety concerns (locking doors, bringing in the pets, etc.). When these things show themselves with someone in their fifties, it may be assumed that they’re simply becoming cranky and irritable, or purposefully neglectful. Rarely do even doctors think to check for early onset Alzheimer’s.

Difficulties on the job and within families can be magnified. Someone that contract Alzheimer’s in their 80’s is probably already retired and expects their life to be winding down. Someone in their fifties may be completely unprepared for the problems that accompany early onset Alzheimer’s, as will be their spouses and other family members. The thought of so many years that they expected to still be strong and active suddenly slipping away can be devastating.

New treatment methods are being researched every day for early onset Alzheimer’s, so perhaps one day doctors will find a way to cure the disease, and perhaps even prevent it altogether.

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