Late-Onset Alcohol Abuse May Signal Dementia

Findings particularly for behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia

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TUESDAY, April 12, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Late-onset alcohol abuse may be a presenting symptom of dementia, according to a study published online April 5 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Elisa de Paula Franca Resende, M.D., Ph.D., from the Hospital das Clínicas da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and colleagues examined the frequency of lifelong alcohol abuse, late-onset alcohol abuse, and alcohol abuse as a first symptom of dementia in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Analysis included 1,518 individuals with a clinical diagnosis of behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer-type dementia, and semantic variant primary progressive aphasia.

The researchers found that the frequency of late-onset alcohol abuse was 2.2 percent and was significantly more frequent in patients with behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia than Alzheimer-type dementia (7.5 versus 1.3 percent), but not semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (4.4 percent). Alcohol abuse as a first symptom of dementia was more frequent in behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia patients than Alzheimer-type dementia (5.7 versus 0.7 percent), but not in semantic variant primary progressive aphasia (2.2 percent).

"Alcohol abuse onset later in life should prompt a clinical investigation into the possibility of an underlying neurodegenerative process because delay in diagnosis and treatment may increase patient and caregiver burden," the authors write.

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