Topic reads: genetic risk and dementia

When someone in the family gets dementia, close relatives worry about whether they will get dementia, too. Genetic risk of dementia is a focus area for researchers. Concerned persons can get a correct overview of the current understanding by checking authoritative, up-to-date sites. This page includes some excerpts and suggested links.

The position paper of Alzheimer’s Society, UK, on genetic testing[1] explains the current understanding of the genetics of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.

Here are a few excerpts from some relevant authoritative pages. These have all been reconfirmed in May 2016:

We can consider the disease to have two forms: the rare early onset Alzheimer’s disease, where first symptoms appear before the age of 65; and the much more common late onset Alzheimer’s disease, where typically the first symptoms develop after this age. These two types of Alzheimer’s disease generally have different patterns of genetic inheritance. [2]

Most people with Alzheimer’s have the late-onset form of the disease, in which symptoms become apparent in the mid-60s and later. The causes of late-onset Alzheimer’s are not yet completely understood, but they likely include a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that affect a person’s risk for developing the disease.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease occurs in people age 30 to 60 and represents less than 5 percent of all people with Alzheimer’s. Most cases are caused by an inherited change in one of three genes, resulting in a typle known as early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease, or FAD. For others, the disease appears to develop without any specific, known cause.

Genetic testing is used by researchers conducting clinical trials and by physicians to help diagnose early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. However, genetic testing is not otherwise recommended.[3]

The majority of dementia is not inherited, but this depends very much on the particular cause of dementia. Some (rare) causes of dementia are very clearly ‘inherited’, for example Huntington’s disease. This is an ‘autosomal dominant’ disease which means that only one faulty copy of the gene is needed in order to inherit the disease. [4]

You can get genetic counselling to know whether you are at higher than normal risk for dementia. This will help you see whether you should consider genetic testing (this is not available easily in India). One factor is considering whether the results of such testing would make a difference to how you plan your life. More links to understand genetics and related decisions are provided below.


Documents referred to above

Additional links


This page is referred to from: Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

[The information on this page is a collation from standard, authoritative sources, provided only for convenience. Caregivers can check out these and other sources to get better informed about this topic.]