Anyone can get dementia even people in their 30s/40s/50s
We know that dementia mostly affects older people but it can affect younger people too. Over 4,000 people have deveoped dementia in Ireland who are under 65 years of age. Often early onset dementia affects people who have another underlying health condition such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease or HIV and AIDS. People with Down's syndrome are more likely to develop dementia when they get older and, in particular, a type of dementia that is known as Alzheimer's disease.
The most common types of dementia include:
Brain cells are surrounded by abnormal protein and their internal structure is also damaged. As it progresses chemical connections between brain cells are lost and the nerve cells die. Memory symptoms may be noticed first but other symptoms can include difficulty finding the right words, solving problems or making decisions and, disturbance in vision and perception.
When blood supply to the brain is reduced because of narrowing or blockages in blood vessels brain cells can be damaged or die. Vascular dementia symptoms can occur suddenly after a major stroke or over time through a series of small strokes or damage to blood vessels in the brain. Symptoms may be similar to those of Alzheimer’s and also include problems with planning and concentrating. People may experience short periods of intense confusion.
Lewy Body Disease
This condition is characterised by the presence of ‘Lewy Bodies’, which are abnormal clumps of protein in the brain. These cause changes in movement, thinking, behaviour and alertness. People with Lewy Body disease can fluctuate between almost normal functioning and severe confusion within short periods, and often have visual hallucinations, seeing things that aren't really there, falls and problems mobilising due to having Parkinson’s like features.
Fronto-temporal dementia is a group of conditions which affect specific parts of the brain, the frontal and/or temporal lobes. If the frontal lobes are affected, the person will have increasing difficulty with motivation, planning and organising, controlling emotions and maintaining socially appropriate behaviour. If temporal lobes are affected the person will have difficulty with speaking and/or understanding language. Symptoms often begin in a person's 50s or 60s.
Other less common forms of dementia include Huntington’s Disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob (CJD), alcohol related dementia and HIV-associated dementia (HAD).
Early/Young Onset Dementia
Younger or early onset dementia affects people under the age of 65. Most people with early/younger onset are in their 40s or 50s. Since doctors don’t usually suspect dementia in younger age groups, the process of getting diagnosed can sometimes be long and difficult. People who are diagnosed with young or early onset dementia may have a strong history of dementia in their family and genetics may have a role in the development of their condition.