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AAN: Causes of Young-Onset Dementia Identified

Neurodegenerative and autoimmune conditions, but not Alzheimer's disease, are common causes

TUESDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- Dementia onset is not uncommon among patients under age 45, and its most frequent causes are neurodegenerative and autoimmune/inflammatory conditions. Only rarely is Alzheimer's disease responsible for young-onset dementia, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Chicago.

Brendan Kelley, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues conducted a retrospective search of the Mayo Clinic electronic medical record to identify patients aged 17 to 45 who presented for evaluation of progressive cognitive decline between 1996 and 2006.

The researchers identified 235 patients (mean age 34.7 at onset) who met the inclusion and exclusion criteria for young-onset dementia. They found that the most common causes of dementia were neurodegenerative conditions (29.8 percent), while Alzheimer's disease occurred in less than 1 percent of patients. They also found that the next most common causes were autoimmune/inflammatory conditions, including multiple sclerosis and metabolic disorders, which accounted for 21.2 and 10.6 percent of cases, respectively. Despite extensive evaluation, the researchers could not identify a cause in 18.7 percent of patients.

"This study sheds light on the fact that young people do, in fact, develop dementia, and that there are important differences between the causes of young-onset dementia and the causes of dementia in older individuals," Kelley said in a statement. "However, more research is required to better understand the characteristics and most effective treatments for young patients with dementia."

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