How to Identify Alzheimer’s in Young Adults
When we worry about aging, many of us focus on things like greying hair, or developing wrinkles in our skin. But in addition to our external body growing older, our insides — including our muscles, skeleton and organs — also experience wear and tear over time.
When our brain begins to show it’s getting on in age, our reflexes become less acute, we move more slowly, and we begin struggling to remember things. Many of us have likely witnessed this last symptom with our Grandparents or parents, but for some, it can be much more severe – and begin much earlier in life — if the brain develops the disease Alzheimer’s.
Read on to learn more about Alzheimer’s in younger brains…
What Is Young Onset Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, characterized initially by struggles to recall learned information and progressing to more severe symptoms, such as disorientation, changes in mood and personality, and even the struggle to walk or talk. Many of us associate the disease with people who are in their later years in life, but Alzheimer’s can also affect people in their 40s and 50s, when it’s known as young onset Alzheimer’s (YOD).
Although it’s not as commonly spoken about, five percent of the 5 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s suffer from YOD. Because of this decreased prevalence, it’s often harder to diagnose as physicians are not often associating the symptoms of the disease with younger people. Compounding the issue is that no one diagnosis is ever the same, as Alzheimer’s affects everyone differently.
Those who develop YOD usually have the common form of Alzheimer’s disease, which progresses very similarly as it does in older people. There are the rare few who have Genetic Alzheimer’s Disease (thought to be a few hundred people) and carry genes which are directly linked to developing the disease – these individuals will begin showing signs as early as their 30s.
How can you tell if you or someone you love has YOD?
What Are the Symptoms of Young Onset Alzheimer’s?
We know that stress can play havoc with our ability to recall facts, so generic (and common) symptoms like occasional memory lapses generally aren’t a serious cause for concern. So, if you’re worried you or someone you know might be developing genuine YOD, what are some of the specific things you should to look out for?
As mentioned previously, early stage YOD symptoms closely mirror those of Alzheimer’s and can include the following:
- Asking the same question repeatedly
- Struggling to contribute to conversations and keeping track of what is being said
- Forgetting the date or time of year
- Changes in mood and/or personality
- Becoming withdrawn from social interactions, both at work and in one’s personal life
- Confusion about why you are in a particular place and how you got there
- Vision challenges
- Difficulties with day-to-day tasks or solving basic problems (such as tallying a bill, or keeping track of household items)
When the disease has progressed further, the above symptoms will increase in severity and individuals will exhibit the classic signs of Alzheimer’s. Many Alzheimer’s support organizations have resources for patients, caregivers and family members to identify and track symptoms, which can be very helpful for the medical team attempting to make a diagnosis.
Speaking of making a diagnosis…