Link found between Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s
There is a link between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, some studies suggest that more than 75 percent of those with Down syndrome over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s. That’s nearly a six times greater chance than individuals without Down syndrome at that age. It also appears at a much younger age, as early as late 40s and early 50s.
While memory loss and forgetfulness are key signs of Alzheimer’s in most individuals, those with Down syndrome may have different symptoms.
“For some patients with Down syndrome, we are more likely to see symptoms related to changes in personality and function,” says Dr. Brian Chicoine, medical director of the Adult Down Syndrome Center at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “Early symptoms can include anxiety, lack of enthusiasm, sadness, irritability and a decline in one’s ability to pay attention.”
Typically, people are born with 23 pairs of chromosomes. People with Down syndrome are born with an extra copy of chromosome 21. This altered genetic combination is responsible for their limitations in both physical and intellectual development. It may also be a reason for their increased risk for dementia.
“We have so very much more to learn about the link between our patients and Alzheimer’s disease,” continues Dr. Chicoine. “Thanks to advances in medicine, individuals with Down syndrome are living much longer than before. That’s why we are continuing to see more and more patients with Alzheimer’s. In turn, it is becoming a very difficult issue for more and more families.”
Some believe that people with Down syndrome are now the largest group of individuals predestined to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. More and more researchers are studying the link between people with Down syndrome and the disease. They are hoping it will provide insight that will benefit millions of people with Alzheimer’s —not just those with Down syndrome.
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!