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Familial Alzheimer’s Disease: What You Need to Know

While you have most likely heard of Alzheimer’s disease before, you may not realize that there are different types of the disease. One type is called familial Alzheimer’s or FAD. This is a rare, but serious form of the illness.

What is FAD?

Familiar Alzheimer’s is only passed from one generation to another within a family. It is inherited from a parent. While only 2% to 3% of all Alzheimer’s cases are FAD, the symptoms can be devastating.

With more traditional forms of the illness, older adults normally see symptoms developing later in life. For those with FAD, memory loss and other issues can begin as early as their thirties.

Scientists believe that FAD is caused by a mutation in up to three genes that have these mutations that cause Alzheimer’s. These genes are used in the development of beta-amyloid proteins. These proteins clump together, which is one characteristic of the disease.

Who is at Risk for FAD?

People develop FAD have at least one parent with the disease. In addition, each child of a parent with FAD has a 50% chance of developing the illness. Currently, there are only 200 known family lines that actually carry the genetic mutation that causes the disease.

The chances of someone developing FAD without having a parent with the disease are almost zero. There is a genetic test that is available to determine whether or not you carry the gene mutation that will lead you to develop FAD. However, if your parents don’t have FAD, there is no real need for this test.

Does Familial Alzheimer’s Differ from Alzheimer’s?

In general, both FAD and late-onset Alzheimer’s are the same with the exception of the age when a person’s symptoms start to appear. Once those symptoms appear, however, a person’s memory begins to diminish, as does their ability to take care of themselves during later stages of the illness.

Perhaps the one factor that sets these two strains of Alzheimer’s apart is the toll that early-onset Alzheimer’s takes on a person’s family. Very often, people with FAD still have young children they are raising and full-time jobs. These people are still in the middle of building their lives.

This doesn’t take away from the struggles that older couples deal with when one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, yet an FAD diagnosis may often mean that the afflicted person’s spouse will now be responsible for raising children in addition to becoming a caregiver for their spouse.

For the person with FAD, the juxtaposition of still having a healthy and active body while losing their ability to function mentally is especially difficult as well. It can lead to depression and even agitation issues.

While there is no cure for FAD or the more tradition late-onset Alzheimer’s, it is important to choose positive lifestyle choices such as a healthy diet, exercise, and stress management to help prevent the disease and stay healthy as long as possible if you are diagnosed with either.

Do you know someone with FAD? What are some of the concerns you or their family have when caring for them? Let us know more in the comments below.





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