People with young-onset Alzheimer’s experience faster symptom progression than older counterparts

People with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease experience a faster worsening of symptoms than their older counterparts

A new study finds that people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at a younger age will see a faster progression in symptoms than their older counterparts, which can cause their support systems to lag.

Dr. Monica Kations, Research Fellow at Flinders University, is a temporary psychiatrist and epidemiologist who has worked in the field of aging and dementia for more than a decade. Image Credit: Flinders University

The study published in Alzheimer’s Disease Journal Led by Flinders University, she looked to understand how the age at which a person’s dementia symptoms began affects the overall progression of the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, along with vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia, which together account for more than 92% of cases worldwide.

“The more we know about how the disease will progress and at what rate symptoms will appear, the better we can help with diagnosis and care planning,” Study author Dr. Monica Kations, a registered psychologist and epidemiologist from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, says.

“We already know that there are many differences with early Alzheimer’s disease, and it is usually classified as occurring before age 65. This includes patients who are more likely to have atypical symptoms and less likely to report memory loss.”

The researchers looked at 30 existing studies that looked at the relationship between the age of onset of symptoms and the effect of dementia on cognition, function, or behavioral symptoms.

The analysis shows that younger people with Alzheimer’s disease experience worsening of symptoms faster on average than older people, with their memory, executive and other important brain functions deteriorating faster.

The authors say the data can be used for clinical planning and suggest that younger people with Alzheimer’s will likely need more frequent review over the course of their disease, along with quick access to support services.

Younger people with dementia already have a greater burden and stress because the onset of their symptoms usually occurs at a time of heightened financial, occupational and family responsibility – so this faster decline can add further distress.”

Dr. Monica Cations.

“In Australia, young people with Alzheimer’s receive services through the NDIS, which usually only reviews their needs and funding annually. This may be insufficient if symptoms worsen more quickly and support is likely to fall behind the patient’s needs.”

While the study has limitations, and more research is needed on vascular and frontotemporal dementia, the authors say the study still has implications for researchers, clinicians and policy makers.

“One of the best things we can do is address modifiable risk factors for dementia in order to potentially delay the onset of symptoms,” Dr. Cation says.

Evidence suggests that being physically active, controlling vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and smoking, avoiding head injury and hearing loss, as well as reducing social isolation, all help reduce dementia risk.

“Any delay could have a potentially significant impact on the overall quality of life in the long term.”

Age of symptom onset and longitudinal course of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Written by Sally Day, Stephanie Roberts, Natalie H. Lander, Anita May Goh, Brian Draper, Alex Bahar Fox, Samantha M. Lowe, Kate Laver, Adrian Withall and Monica Kations, published in Alzheimer’s Disease Journal. DOI: 10.3233 / JAD-215360

The research was funded by a Dementia Australia Research Foundation project grant.


Journal reference:

days., et al. (2022) Age of symptom onset and longitudinal course of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Alzheimer’s Disease Journal.

2022-05-16 04:46:00

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