Associating memory loss such as Alzheimer’s to the old is a misconceived notion, a myth in regards to mental illness. It is important to understand that this disease affects a large number of people, both young and old. A recent study showed that about five per cent develop the symptoms before the age of 65. This age has been categorised as the ‘young onset dementia.”
In fact, scientists have found pieces of evidence of a protein found in Alzheimer’s disease, called amyloid, in the brains of people as young as 20. This discovery has debunked the myth that Alzheimer’s affects the old only. The cases of young onset Alzheimer’s has been found to develop when the proteins build up in the brain to form structures called plaques and tangles or are either inherited by one generation from the previous.
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The symptoms of young onset dementia are similar or almost same as that of dementia in older people. As such, the symptoms will start hindering their everyday lives such as forgetting the name of a family member, the roads that they take every day or even where they live. However, the diagnosis of younger onset dementia can prove difficult.
This is because mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, stress may have similar symptoms to those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. But accepting that they have the disease is often ignored and they go on about living their thinking there isn’t anything wrong but are otherwise fit and well. This has to do with the stigma and stereotype associated with mental health conditions.
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In this situation, monitoring memory function, activities of daily living and behaviour over time is important. Keeping track of the first symptoms such as vision problem, speech or having difficulty planning, making and behaviour change is crucial.
As of now, there is no treatment to cure, delay or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are many new biomarker tests such as genetic tests, brain scans and measuring proteins in spinal fluid that can help doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s more accurately.
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Pay crucial importance to the signs of the early symptoms, if you exhibit the early signs or feel like your confusion and memory problems are getting worse, it is the right time to consult your doctor.