Early-onset dementias: diagnostic and etiological considerations
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This paper summarizes the body of literature about early-onset dementia (EOD) that led to recommendations from the Fourth Canadian Consensus Conference on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Dementia. A broader differential diagnosis is required for EOD compared with late-onset dementia. Delays in diagnosis are common, and the social impact of EOD requires special care teams. The etiologies underlying EOD syndromes should take into account family history and comorbid diseases, such as cerebrovascular risk factors, that may influence the clinical presentation and age at onset. For example, although many EODs are more likely to have Mendelian genetic and/or metabolic causes, the presence of comorbidities may drive the individual at risk for late-onset dementia to manifest the symptoms at an earlier age, which contributes further to the observed heterogeneity and may confound diagnostic investigation. A personalized medicine approach to diagnosis should therefore be considered depending on the age at onset, clinical presentation, and comorbidities. Genetic counseling and testing as well as specialized biochemical screening are often required, especially in those under the age of 40 and in those with a family history of autosomal dominant or recessive disease. Novel treatments in the drug development pipeline for EOD, such as genetic forms of Alzheimer's disease, should target the specific pathogenic cascade implicated by the mutation or biochemical defect.
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