Early-versus late-onset Alzheimer's disease: more than age alone

J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;19(4):1401-8. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2010-1337.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia at older age. Although less prevalent before the age of 65 years, it is still the most frequent cause of early-onset dementia followed by frontotemporal dementia. The typical presentation of AD is memory dysfunction, however, presentations with prominent cognitive impairment in other domains besides memory, like prominent apraxia, language problems, or executive dysfunction, may occur and are relatively more common in early-onset AD. In this retrospective descriptive study, we determined the prevalence of non-memory presentations in a large sample of early-onset AD patients compared to late-onset AD. The clinical files of 270 patients with AD starting before the age of 65 years and 90 patients with late-onset AD ( 65 years) were reviewed to assess clinical characteristics. Patients were classified as memory presentation and non-memory presentation according to their clinical presentation. The mean age of the early-onset group was 56 +/- 5 years and 74 +/- 6 years for the late-onset group. A third of the early-onset AD group presented with non-memory symptoms compared to only 6% in the late-onset group (p < 0.001). Within the group with non-memory presentations, apraxia/visuospatial dysfunction was the most prevalent presenting symptom (12%). Patients with early-onset AD often present with a non-memory phenotype, of which apraxia/visuospatial dysfunction is the most common presenting symptom. Atypical presentations of AD should be considered in the clinical differential diagnosis of early-onset dementia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Severity of Illness Index