Can a young person have dementia?

Dementia is perceived as a condition that affects older people, and it is true that the older you are, the more likely you are to develop the condition.

In fact, according to a report by Dementia UK, 1 in every 14 of the population aged 65 years old and over in the UK has dementia.

However, dementia does not only affect those aged over 65, although rare, it is possible for people as young as 30 to develop dementia.

In this article, we will find out a little more about what causes dementia in younger people and the signs and symptoms of young-onset dementia.

Is it possible for young people to develop dementia?

The vast majority of those living with dementia are aged 65 and over but a small percentage of people with dementia begin developing symptoms when they are much younger than this.

Dementia that develops before the age of 65 is referred to as young-onset dementia.

According to research published by Alzheimer’s Research UK, in 2014 there were over 42,000 people under the age of 65 living with dementia in the UK. That means that about 5.2% of the people living with dementia in the UK are aged under 65.

The age of the people with young-onset dementia was split up as follows:

  • 708 people aged 30 – 39 years
  • 2009 people aged 40 – 49 years
  • 7741 people aged 50 – 59 years
  • 31,864 people aged 60 – 64 years

Diagnosing dementia in younger people can be challenging, so the actual figures are likely to be a little higher than this.

These figures show that age still plays a key factor in your likelihood of developing young-onset dementia.

Are dementia symptoms different in younger people?

The dementia symptoms that young people experience depend on the type of dementia that they have.

Younger people are much more likely to develop rarer types of dementia, which can cause their symptoms to be a little different to those experienced by older people with the condition.

Some types of dementia experienced by younger people include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Atypical Alzheimer’s disease (eg. Posterior cortical atrophy)
  • Familial Alzheimer’s disease
  • Vascular dementia
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Alcohol-related dementia
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies

Dementia is a condition that causes a gradual decline in cognitive functioning. People with young-onset dementia may experience a variety of different symptoms depending on the type of dementia they have and how progressed the condition is.

Common symptoms of early-onset dementia include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulties with language
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty with planning and decision-making
  • Behavioural changes
  • Confusion
  • Problems with concentration
  • Difficulty with physical coordination
  • Mood swings

Rarer types of dementia may cause a variety of other symptoms. For example, Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) is a type of atypical Alzheimer’s dementia which often starts with problems with vision and understanding visual information. Those with vascular dementia may experience physical symptoms like limb weakness as well as cognitive problems, and young people with dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) can experience hallucinations.

Are the causes of dementia different in young people?

Dementia can be caused by a variety of different diseases in both young and old people. However, there are some key differences in the causes of dementia in young and old people.

Dementia is more likely to be caused by genetics in young people, with around 10% of people with young-onset dementia having inherited it.

Young-onset dementia can also be caused by a wider variety of diseases and a person with the condition is more likely to have a rare form of dementia.

Other common causes of young-onset dementia include:

  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • HIV
  • Stroke

According to the Dementia UK website, prevalence rates for young-onset dementia are higher in black and ethnic minority groups. Those with a learning disability or Down’s syndrome are also more at risk of developing the condition.

Being diagnosed with dementia is difficult for anyone but tends to have a greater impact on the lives of those with young-onset dementia who may still be employed or have a young family to look after.

Because young on-set dementia is uncommon, and symptoms are variable, it can sometimes take a long time for the condition to be correctly diagnosed. When symptoms first begin to show themselves they are often overlooked or mistaken as symptoms of other conditions like menopause, stress, or anxiety.

If you or someone you know has dementia, read our article ‘How can I understand dementia better’ for further help and advice on the steps you can take to learn more about the condition and its challenges.