Early-onset Alzheimer’s is a rare form of the disease that affects individuals younger than 65 years of age at the time of diagnosis. Approximately 250,000 of the 5.7 million people in the United States diagnosed with Alzheimer’s experience early-onset.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s is often referred to as “younger Alzheimer’s” to avoid confusion with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Individuals with early-onset Alzheimer’s demonstrate more often atypical presentations than those with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Many of those with early-onset don’t have significant memory loss initially – the classic hallmark symptom of Alzheimer’s. Their disease progression does not begin with symptoms of forgetfulness. Some of these individuals present with visual symptoms – inability to see the full picture giving them in essence a “tunnel vision”, impaired depth perception or inability to recognize faces – or impaired speech/difficulty coming up with words in conversation.
These unusual symptoms present one of the biggest challenges in the diagnostic process. Since the presentation of early-onset is confusing, individuals with the beginning stages of the disease are often misdiagnosed and labeled as having a psychiatric disease, ultimately resulting in them not receiving the care and education they need. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease also progresses much faster than late-onset.