Kelley and his colleagues found that other neurodegenerative conditions -- such as frontotemporal dementia, a group of diseases commonly misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's -- were at play in almost one-third of the cases.
Autoimmune and inflammatory disorders -- such as MS -- accounted for just over 20 percent of the dementia cases. Metabolic abnormalities were cited in just over 10 percent of the diagnoses, while for another 20 percent, no cause for dementia could be established.
Kelley said his work is ongoing. And he added that he and his colleagues are now trying to identify specific disease markers for early-onset dementia to help physicians distinguish those cases prompted by causes other than Alzheimer's.
"Because some of the other disorders linked to early dementia have treatable profiles that allow targeting not just of the symptoms but of the underlying disease process," he noted. "So, we really should be looking to identify them quickly when they are the cause, because the research suggests that treatment could result in a direct improvement of the patient's cognition and behavior."
Greg M. Cole, associate director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, described the findings as "interesting, but not completely unexpected".
"We know that Alzheimer's gets rarer and rarer the younger you go," he said. "So, when you're focused as this study is on people between 17 and 45 -- really before middle-age -- it's more likely you'll find some other cause for the dementia, which can be a variety of different things."
"But if you're looking at these other autoimmune causes -- multiple sclerosis, lupus, HIV -- the real question is, can you treat any of this?," pondered Co
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