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 5% of the 6.5 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s experience the early-onset form of the disease, 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.