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Most Early-Onset Dementia Not Alzheimer's
Date:4/15/2008

Other neurodegenerative, autoimmune diseases are more often cause, study finds

TUESDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- The root cause of early-onset dementia is usually not Alzheimer's, but rather another neurodegenerative or autoimmune disorder, new research suggests.

The study authors acknowledge that -- age aside -- the most common forms of dementia are Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and the brain damage-associated condition known as Lewy body dementia. However, their current work indicates that among patients below the age of 45, the problem is much more likely to be traced back to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Huntington's, lupus or HIV infection, among others.

"This is really a novel finding, because there hasn't really been a study that's looked at young-onset dementia in this way," said study author Dr. Brendan J. Kelley, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "And the message is that young-onset dementia is generally not related to Alzheimer's."

The work of Kelley and his team was expected to presented April 15 at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting, in Chicago.

The U.S. Administration on Aging highlights 2006 estimates released by the Alzheimer's Association, which indicate that between 220,000 and 640,000 American men and women currently suffer from early-onset dementia. The association specifically defines "early-onset Alzheimer's" as referring to cases that develop before the age of 65.

However, in their study, Kelley and his team focused exclusively on 235 patients diagnosed with a form of dementia diagnosed between the ages of 17 and 45 -- citing statistics suggesting that 12 in 100,000 people develop some form of early-onset dementia before the age of 45.

All the study patients had sought care at the Mayo Clinic between 1996 and 2006, and all had normal cognitive function prior to their dementia diagnosis.

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