Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK and around 42,325 young people have been diagnosed with this disease. Those who show symptoms of dementia before the age of 65 are classified as having early-onset dementia. However, symptoms can start to show from as young as 30 years old.
Both young-onset dementia and dementia are caused by a buildup of proteins in the brain, that results in a lack of a connection between nerve cells, and a severe loss of brain tissue. These plaques limit the production of chemicals in the brain, which inhibit important messages being transmitted. However, there are a wider range of diseases that trigger early-onset dementia in a younger person and they have a higher probability of having a rarer form of the disease.
Familial Alzheimer’s Disease
It is thought that between 7-12% of people with young-onset dementia was inherited from a parent. The inherited form is known as Familial Alzheimer’s and is incredibly rare; symptoms usually appear in someone in their 30s to 50s. The earlier the start of the disease, the more likely it is to be genetic. Familial Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a mutation of PSEN1 gene (presenilin 1) that boosts the production of amino acids. Instead they produce excess proteins that build up in the brain. However, this form of dementia is incredibly rare – according to the Alzheimer’s Society it affects over 500 families worldwide and accounts for 1% of dementia.
Types of Young-Onset Dementia
Young-Onset Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia accounts for 15% of those with young-onset dementia, and is the second most common type in people under the age of 65. Vascular dementia is caused when there are issues with the supply of blood to the brain, and has links to diabetes and heart disease. This type of dementia requires complex care. A genetic and rare form of this disease is known as CADASIL (Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy), and is prevalent in those aged 30-50. It is caused by a mutation in the NOTCH3 gene, which produces an excess proteins that build up in the brain. Patient state that there are 400 families worldwide who are affected.
Early-Onset Frontotemporal Dementia
Frontotemporal dementia affects 10-15% of young people with the disease, and is caused by damage to the lobes at the front and/or sides of the brain. This form of the disease affects more younger people than old. The most common age of diagnosis is 45-65.
Young-Onset Dementia with Lewy Bodies
5% of people under the age of 65 with dementia have this type of the disease. It is caused by the build-up of tiny protein deposits known as Lewy bodies in the brain. These deposits are linked to Parkinson’s disease; one third of people with Parkinson’s develop dementia.
Korsakoff’s Syndrome is a form of dementia associated with alcohol abuse. It affects 10% of young people with dementia, and is caused by a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine). This type of dementia has been known to be halted and reversed.
Rarer Forms of Early-Onset Dementia
20-25% of young people with dementia have a rarer form of this disease. These causes are down to degenerative neurological conditions that cause progressive damage to the nervous system (such as Huntington’s disease, corticobasal degeneration and CJD). Some rarer types of dementia progress very rapidly over just a few months.
Caring for Someone with Young-Onset Dementia
Due to the age at which early-onset Alzheimer’s starts, it can have a devastating impact on the patient’s life. Some people may be working, as well as have a magnitude of responsibilities such as a mortgage and family to take care of at the time of diagnosis. Your parents or children may want to shoulder some responsibility of caring for you, but you shouldn’t ever feel like you are a burden to them. Home care is most effective when the right support is used. It is important to access the support and services that are out there for you, as well as finding treatment that will work for you. There are dedicated age groups out there for younger people with Alzheimer’s and dementia – it is important to remember that you are not alone. You may feel that you do not require any home care services or domiciliary care at the early stage of your diagnosis, but as dementia is a progressive disease it is important to discuss the future live-in care or complex care you may need. Should you have any questions about living with dementia, or any care services do not hesitate to get in touch with Sova Healthcare.