Alzheimer's disease, early onset is a progressive condition of the brain that affects memory, thinking, and behavior that occurs before the age of 65. Only 5% of cases of Alzheimer's are considered early onset.
Causes for this early onset of Alzheimer's disease are often genetic, but environmental and behavioral factors may also play a role, just like in traditional Alzheimer's disease (See: Alzheimer's disease). Early onset Alzheimer's disease has the same symptoms including: difficulty remembering newly learned information, memory loss, behavioral changes, disorientation, confusion, and unnecessary suspicion of family or others. These symptoms may progress to an inability to care for him or herself, to eat, or to speak. Because Alzheimer's is typically a disease of old age, early onset Alzheimer's often goes misdiagnosed as stress or another condition. It may take multiple doctors visits and second opinions to find the correct diagnosis. Early onset Alzheimer's can be particularly devastating, but if caught early, the symptoms can potentially be managed and quality of life improved.
There is no cure for either early onset or for traditional "late onset" Alzheimer's. However, there are medications available that may help to slow the progression of the disease and help with some of the symptoms. It is important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you or a family member may have early onset Alzheimer's. Genetic testing may be available to help you and your family predict and manage your risks.