Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a term for memory loss, which is serious enough to affect daily life. It affects three to four million people in the US. 10% of all the persons over 70-years-old have memory loss and in more than half, the cause is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease alone accounts for a healthcare cost of more than $80 billion per year.
Although old age is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and it occurs commonly in elderly people above the age of 65-years-old, it is still not a sign of normal aging. It has become clear that Alzheimer’s disease can occur in any decade of adulthood and is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, which means that it worsens with time. Initially, these patients have a mild memory loss but later on, they find it difficult to carry on a conversation with someone and respond to the environment.
Alzheimer’s is reported to be the 6th leading cause of death among the US population. A patient diagnosed with Alzheimer’s roughly lives up to about eight years after being diagnosed. However, this can vary between 4 to 20 years depending on various factors, such as the patient's health condition and age.
Early onset Alzheimer’s
In the US, approximately 200,000 people develop early onset Alzheimer’s. It strikes individuals between 40-years-old and 50-years-old.
What causes young onset Alzheimer’s disease?
The exact cause of early onset Alzheimer’s disease still remains unknown. However, several rare genes that directly cause Alzheimer’s disease have been found in a few hundred families with Alzheimer’s. People who inherit these rare genes develop to Alzheimer’s during their 3rd or 4th decade in life. When the underlying cause of Alzheimer’s is genetic factors, it is known as Familial Alzheimer’s disease.
Diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s disease
Early onset Alzheimer’s is often misdiagnosed as stress. The reason behind this is nobody thinks about Alzheimer’s in these young populations who presents with memory loss and thus misdiagnosis.
People with early onset Alzheimer’s disease can be at any stage – early, middle, or late stages and their symptoms and presentation will vary from person-to-person.
Treatment for early onset Alzheimer’s disease
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are some drugs to control the symptoms. Drugs such as Donepezil, Memantine and Rivastigmine help with memory loss in Alzheimer’s. These drugs help to prolong your independent life by improving or delaying your symptoms a few months to few years.