Young Onset Dementia

'Young onset dementia' describes a set of symptoms caused by damage to the brain and affecting people under the age of 65. These symptoms get worse over time and are caused by a number of different diseases or trauma.

The figures regarding the numbers of people under 65 who have dementia vary widely. The Alzheimer’s Society figures suggest that there are approximately 17,000 people diagnosed with young onset dementia in the UK but it is estimated that because of low referral rates the actual figure could be up to 3 times higher 1.In 2010 the Alzheimer’s Research Trust (now Alzheimer’s Research UK  2) suggested that there could be an even higher figure of 64,037 people under 65 with diagnosed or undiagnosed dementia in the UK.

The main causes of young onset dementia differ from those that affect people over 65. The distrubition of diagnoses in younger people against those over 65 is below:

Those under 65

Samson et Al 2004

 Those over 65

Knapp & Prince 2007

There are many rarer diseases that may lead to dementia and it it is worth noting their prevelance in the younger population in particular the incidence of fronto temporal dementia and alcohol related dementia. Also of note is the  25% of diagnoses that form the "other" rarer forms including progressive supranuclear palsy, Binswanger's disease, HIV/AIDS, and Creutzfeldt−Jakob disease (CJD). Some people with multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease may also develop dementia as a result of disease progression. Additionally dementia in people with Down’s syndrome may develop at an early age.

The number of men who develop young onset dementia is higher on average than that of women at a ratio of 1.4 to 1

Knapp & Prince 2007

Signs & Symptoms of Young Onset Dementia

Dementia results in ongoing decline which is different for everyone. This is largely determined by the type of dementia and which area of the brain is affected. These changes are not part of normal ageing and the effects impact on daily living, independence and relationships.

Common signs and symptoms of dementia include:

In its early stages, confirming a diagnosis of dementia can be difficult. May be because many of the symptoms of dementia can be caused by other conditions.

A number of different tests and assessments are carried out to diagnose dementia including reviews of medication, medical and personal history, a full assessment of mental ability, blood tests and imaging scans.

Younger People

A younger person is likely to face different challenges to that of an older person and:

It has been estimated that, by the year 2015, there will be 761 people in Essex with young onset dementia although this figure could in fact be higher.