Alzheimer's Disease in Down Syndrome (cont.)
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What is the link between down syndrome and Alzheimer's disease?
The reason Alzheimer's disease is more common in people with Down syndrome is not completely known. Alzheimer's disease is associated with increased production of a compound called amyloid beta in the brain. Amyloid beta accumulates and causes loss of brain cells called neurons. Exactly how neuron loss occurs is not well understood. The higher risk for Alzheimer's disease in people with Down syndrome may be related to the extra copy of chromosome 21 (which causes Down syndrome) because it leads to increased production of amyloid beta.
The age when symptoms of Alzheimer's disease actually develop may be related to a person's mental capacity (cognitive reserve) or some anatomic characteristics of the brain. That means people with greater brain weight, more brain cells (neurons), and more education may not have symptoms of Alzheimer's disease as early as people with less cognitive reserve. People with Down syndrome may develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease earlier in life than other people because of their increased production of amyloid beta and their smaller cognitive reserve.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease in people with Down syndrome?
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In people with Down syndrome, the first symptoms usually develop at age 50 years, and the disease is usually diagnosed by age 52 years. Death occurs at an average age of 60.11 years. The time from the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease to death is usually about 9 years.
Symptoms of the early stage of Alzheimer's disease
Symptoms of the middle stage of Alzheimer's disease
Symptoms of the advanced stage of Alzheimer's disease
Physical symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are similar to those in people without Down syndrome and include the following:
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/23/2016
Norberto Alvarez, MD
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Alzheimer disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. It is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain, strongly associated with advanced age.