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Alzheimer’s disease: How Down’s syndrome increases risk

People with Down's syndrome have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Down's syndrome can lead to amyloid plaques in the brain which are associated with Alzheimer's disease.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease may be expressed differently among adults with Down’s syndrome. For example, in the early stages of the disease, memory loss is not always noted. In addition, not all symptoms ordinarily associated with Alzheimer’s disease will occur. Generally, changes in activities of daily living skills are noticed, and the person with Down’s syndrome may begin to have seizures when he or she had never had them before. Changes in mental processes - such as thinking, reasoning and judgment - may also be present, but they are often not very noticeable because of the limitation of the individual’s functioning in general.

How common is Alzheimer’s disease in people with Down’s syndrome?

The Alzheimer's Society says studies show the numbers of people with Down's syndrome who have Alzheimer's disease are around:

  • One in 50 of those aged 30-39
  • One in 10 of those aged 40-49
  • One in three of those aged 50-59
  • More than 50% of those aged 60 or over.

Why do people with Down’s syndrome get Alzheimer’s disease?

Current research shows that the extra gene present in those with Down’s syndrome may be a factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The early ageing of the Down’s syndrome brain may also be a factor.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 18, 2016

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