Everyone experiences forgetfulness from time to time, especially as they get older. But there is a difference between normal age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re in your 30’s or 40’s and are starting to wonder if your memory lapses are normal, we’re here to help. Early-onset Alzheimer’s can be an overwhelming diagnosis, so we’re here to guide you in understanding what it is, what causes it, and how it’s treated.
What Is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It’s a progressive condition, meaning that the way it affects your memory, thinking, and behavior will usually worsen over time.
Typically, Alzheimer’s affects older adults around the age of 65, but sometimes it can also affect people as young as 30 or 40. When the disease affects younger adults, it is considered early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s is pretty rare and only affects a small number of people. Although it can affect all young adults, most people are in their 40s and 50s when the disease takes hold.
What Causes Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?
Unfortunately, it is unknown exactly what triggers Alzheimer’s disease, but it is widely believed to develop due to more than one specific cause.
Some of the factors that could contribute to the development of early-onset Alzheimer’s include:
- Age-related changes in the brain
- Family history of dementia
- Environmental factors
- Lifestyle factors
What Are the Signs of Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?
While the signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease vary from person to person, we collected a list of the top 10 common signs for you to look out for.
Memory loss is the most common sign of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. You may notice that you are more forgetful than usual. This looks different for everyone, but some common examples include:
- Forgetting an important date
- Needing frequent reminders
- Forgetting things immediately
Memory Loss That Impedes Daily Activities
As Alzheimer’s progresses, the memory loss you experience may get in the way of living your normal life. If you experience any of the following outcomes due to your memory loss, it might be time to contact your healthcare provider:
- You are unable to perform daily tasks & duties
- You need daily assistance & struggle without it
- Your memory loss affects your safety
Difficulty Planning and Problem-Solving
Another common sign that you may have Alzheimer’s is that you find it challenging to make a plan. You may also notice that you find it challenging to find a solution to a problem that you would typically be able to solve independently.
Difficulty Completing Everyday Tasks
Routine day-to-day tasks can be difficult for all of us. For a person with Alzheimer’s, it may stop you from supporting yourself or keeping yourself safe.
Confusion About Location and Time
People with Alzheimer’s can become more and more forgetful about where they are, how they got there, or why they’re there. Speak to a doctor if you frequently:
- Lose track of dates often
- Lose track of time easily
- Get lost in known places
Problems With Vision and Spatial Awareness
Signs of Alzheimer’s go beyond memory loss. If you have Alzheimer’s disease, you may experience physical effects such as:
- Vision problems or loss
- Difficulty judging distance
- Loss of balance
Problems Writing or Speaking
One of the easiest signs to spot is communication issues.
Alzheimer’s can affect someone’s ability to:
- Initiate conversations
- Keep up conversation
- Forget words while talking
Misplacing Items Often
If you have early-onset Alzheimer’s, you notice that:
- You’re misplacing items & finding them in unusual places
- It’s becoming more difficult to find any lost items
Difficulty Making Decisions
Decision-making is an integral part of our day-to-day life. However, for someone struggling with early-onset Alzheimer’s, you may notice that you are putting off decisions, making decisions with bad judgment, or putting off making an important decision.
Withdrawing From Work and Social Events
As Alzheimer’s symptoms appear, you may start to withdraw from work and social events that you once enjoyed. This is a serious sign to pay attention to as this symptom tends to worsen as the disease progresses.
Mood or Personality Changes
If you have Alzheimer’s, you may have mood swings or heightened emotions. A noticeable change in moods may include:
These symptoms are especially problematic if they occur during regular routines for no reason.
How Is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?
If you have noticed any of the above signs, talk to a doctor or a loved one. A medical exam can help you get diagnosed and find the right treatment plan for you.
To diagnose you with Alzheimer’s, your doctor will:
- Discuss your family history
- Conduct a medical exam
- Conduct a neurological exam
With the tests done during these exams, your doctor can diagnose you with Alzheimer’s. If necessary, your doctor may refer you to a specialist.
How Is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Treated?
Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease currently has no cure, but treatments are available to help manage some of the symptoms. These include:
- Memory care communities
- Memory loss therapies
- Prescription medications
- Lifestyle changes
Luckily, researchers are learning new things about early-onset Alzheimer’s every day. Hopefully, with more research, we will see new treatment options in the near future.
Can Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Be Prevented?
Because the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown, experts don’t yet know how to prevent the disease.
Evidence shows that detecting the disease early may lead to better treatment options, but some other things you can do to do help lower your risk of Alzheimer’s include:
- Stop smoking
- Limit alcohol use
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Exercise often
- Get regular health checks
- Take prescribed medications