Onset Age of Alzheimer’s may Predict Symptoms

Alzheimers disease may have different symptoms for people with early versus late onset

(RxWiki News) Alzheimer’s disease is typically divided into two categories: early onset and late onset. New research shows that the specific types of deficits experienced may be related to the type or onset age of the disorder.

A recent study looked at the cognitive abilities of people with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. 

People who were classified as having early onset Alzheimer’s disease showed a lower ability to turn an idea into action – as in daily tasks – compared to people with late onset Alzheimer’s disease.

"Discuss your Alzheimer’s symptoms with your neurologist"

Alzheimer’s disease causes loss of memory, loss of the ability to perform daily tasks and language deficits. The disease is generally classified according to the age at which symptoms begin. Early onset is diagnosed before age 65. People diagnosed over 65 are classified as late onset.

A new study, led by Francisca Sa, MD, of the department of Neurology at Hospital de Far in Portugal, investigated the cognitive abilities of 280 people with either early or late onset Alzheimer’s disease. They found that people with early onset Alzheimer’s disease had higher levels of apraxia, which is the term used to describe the loss of the ability to turn an idea into action. 

This skill is used in many daily tasks. For example, apraxia can be a loss of the ability to take the knowledge of how to hold a fork and turn it into the action of actually holding the fork.

People with Alzheimer’s often suffer from apraxia, and this recent research shows that apraxia may more severely affect people with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The authors of the study concluded that the differences in function between early and late onset may reflect a difference in disease process. 

Brain regions may be damaged in different ways in the two categories of the disease.

This new information may be helpful for doctors because it might provide a more specific avenue for diagnosing symptoms in early onset Alzheimer’s disease. 

The report was published in Frontiers in Dementia on April 25, 2012. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
May 1, 2012