These four types of dementia are among the major causes of young onset dementia (YOD). Symptoms and treatments vary according to the brain disease causing YOD.

Alzheimer’s disease

Most common cause of YOD (one third of patients)

  • Symptoms: predominantly memory difficulties
  • From onset of symptoms to death: about 10 years
  • Currently available treatment offers only symptomatic relief (no cure)

Vascular dementia

Second most common cause of YOD

  • Symptoms: problems with executive functions such as planning, sequencing and judgement
  • Treatable if diagnosed early
  • Caused by stroke (which may be silent, without physical symp- Dealing with a multi-faceted disease toms) brought on by chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Usually not picked up at home until symptoms have worsened
  • Treatment is aimed at preventing another stroke

Fronto-temporal dementia

Third most common cause of YOD

  • Symptoms: changes in behaviour (personality changes, disinhibition, food obsessions) or language (word-finding difficulty, wrong word use)
  • Most aggressive form of YOD – may progress from word finding difficulty to becoming mute in three years
  • From onset of symptoms to death: about seven years
  • Associated with the existence of family members who exhibit atypical behaviours, e.g. alcoholism, criminal behaviour
  • Treatment offers only symptomatic relief (no cure)

Auto-immune dementia

Seen in about 10 per cent of patients with YOD , less often seen in older people

  • Symptoms: fluctuating changes in behaviour and executive functions (some days may be good, some bad), unlike other dementias which progressively deteriorate over time; may manifest with tremors, involuntary jerky movements, and slowness of movement
  • Treatment with steroids or immunosuppressants should be started only when diagnosis is confirmed. Patient may be completely cured if the disease is caught early and damage to the brain is minimal

Ref. Q15