Early-onset familial Alzheimer disease is hereditary and marked by Alzheimer disease symptoms that appear at an unusually early age. Symptoms can start in a person’s thirties, forties, and fifties and very rarely in the late twenties. Generally, if you are diagnosed with early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease, then one of your parents will also have had it if he or she lived long enough, and your siblings and your children may have a 50-50 chance of having inherited it. Very rarely, early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease can make a first-time appearance in a family through a new genetic mutation.
Apart from the differences in genetic cause and age of onset, neurologists generally agree that early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease are essentially the same disease. Early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease progresses with the same overall sequence of symptoms and increasing impairments as that of late-onset Alzheimer’s.
Like the more common late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease is incurable. Over several years, the patient will lose memory and other mental functions, and become completely dependent on others. At this time, there is no treatment to slow down the disease.
Two things stand out the most about early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. One is how the Alzheimer’s disease clinical syndrome develops in an otherwise healthy personand the other is how high a burden the disease imposes on the spouse and children, who are often still young. These patients are active, working people who are in the midst of building a life for their families.