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Alzheimer's Disease

Relatively Early Onset Alzheimer`s Disease

09/30/2010

Question:

To Whom It May Concern: My wife has relatively early onset Alzheimer`s disease indicated by a suggestive PET Scan and deteriorating performance on serial neuropsychologic testing. My wife will be 62 years old 12/25/2010. PET Scan was done in 2007. My wife`s mother had apparent Alzheimer`s Disease, also probably manifest in her 60s. Two of my wife`s mother`s sisters did not have manifest early onset Alzheimer`s Disease. Should my wife have genetic testing? My three children are concerned about developing the disorder. Can the children be tested for the various genetic variations that are associated with an increased incidence of Alzheimer`s Disease? Who should I contact to do the genetic testing?

Answer:

Alzheimer's disease often runs in families. However, there are only a very few genetic mutations that cause Alzheimer's disease that we know about and can test for. The mutations that are known almost always cause disease at a very young age from late 30s to early 50s. Therefore if your wife did not start getting the sings of the disease until her late 50s, most likely she does not have any of the known mutations that can be measured. The children are at increased risk just based on the fact that their mother has the disease. The genetic tests, if they are done are not covered by insurance as a general rule. Genetic testing would probably not be that useful for the children since it is unlikely that they have any of the know mutations due to the age of onset of her mother and other family members. Also if they had one of the known mutations, there is little they can do about it as we have no preventative treatment at this time. If they wish to be tested anyway, I would suggest first visiting a genetic counselor so that they can discuss what a test result might mean. Keep in mind that if the tests were negative, that by no means indicates that they will not get Alzheimer's disease.

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Response by:

Douglas W Scharre, MD Douglas W Scharre, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology
Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University