When it occurs and how to identify Alzheimer’s in young people

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia syndrome that causes degeneration and progressive brain impairment. The symptoms appear little by little, initially with memory failures, which can progress to mental confusion, apathy, mood swings and difficulties to perform daily tasks, such as cooking or paying bills for example.

This disease is more common in the elderly over 60 years, however, it is possible to occur in younger adults. When it affects young people, this disease is called early Alzheimer’s, or family, is a rare condition and only happens due to genetic and hereditary causes, and it can appear after 35 years of age. Better understand what are the causes of Alzheimer’s and how to diagnose.

Alzheimer’s symptoms in young people

The symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease are progressive, that is, they appear gradually. Thus, the initial signs and symptoms are subtle, often imperceptible, but they get worse over the months or years.

Initial symptoms Advanced symptoms
Forgetting where you kept objects; Mental confusion;
Having difficulty remembering people’s names, addresses or numbers; Saying meaningless things;
Store objects in unusual places; Apathy and depression;
Forget important events; Frequent falls;
Difficulty in orienting yourself in time and space; Lack of coordination;
Difficulty performing calculations or spelling words; Urinary and fecal incontinence;
Having difficulty remembering activities you performed frequently, such as cooking or sewing. Difficulty in basic daily activities, such as showering, going to the bathroom and talking on the phone.

It is important to note that the presence of one or some of these symptoms does not confirm the presence of Alzheimer’s, as they can happen in other situations, such as in people with anxiety and depression, for example, requiring consultation with a neurologist, geriatrician or general practitioner for evaluating the possibilities. 

Which young people are most at risk

Early, or familial, Alzheimer’s disease occurs in less than 10% of cases of this disease, and it happens due to hereditary genetic causes. Thus, the people at greatest risk are those who already have a close relative with this type of dementia, such as parents or grandparents, for example. 

The children of people with hereditary Alzheimer’s can have a genetic test, which can indicate whether there is a risk of developing the disease, such as Apolipoprotein E genotyping, but it is an expensive genetic test and available in a few neurology centers.

What to do in case of suspicion

If Alzheimer’s disease is suspected in young people, it is important to consult with a general practitioner or neurologist to have a clinical evaluation, physical examination, memory tests and blood tests requested.

This is because this disease is very rare in people who are not elderly, and it is much more likely that the change in memory may be occurring for other causes, such as:

  • Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Psychiatric diseases, such as bipolar disorder;
  • Vitamin deficiency, such as vitamin B12;
  • Infectious diseases, such as advanced syphilis or HIV;
  • Endocrinological diseases, such as hypothyroidism;
  • Brain injury, caused by trauma in accidents or after a stroke.

These changes can impair memory and cause mental confusion, being very confused with Alzheimer’s disease. Thus, the treatment will be specific and according to the cause, and it may be necessary to use antidepressants, antipsychotics or thyroid hormones, for example.

However, if an early Alzheimer’s disease is confirmed, the treatment will be guided by the neurologist, who may indicate the use of medications, such as Donepezil, Galantamine or Rivastigmine, in addition to performing activities such as occupational therapy, physical therapy and physical exercises, which are activities especially indicated in the initial phase of the disease to stimulate memory and assist in carrying out daily activities. Find out what treatment options exist for Alzheimer’s disease . 

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