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Young-onset dementia

These pages explain what young-onset dementia is, including the causes and symptoms, and how it is diagnosed and treated. 

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Women with young-onset dementia smiling

What is young-onset dementia?

There are over 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and the likelihood of developing dementia increases significantly with age. When a person develops dementia before the age of 65, this is known as ‘young-onset dementia’. Over 42,000 people in the UK are living with young-onset dementia (and are often referred to as ‘younger people with dementia’).

Like all people with dementia, younger people may experience a wide range of symptoms, especially in the early stages of dementia. However, they are likely to need different support to older people. This section looks at the types of dementia that younger people can have and the effects of these. It also includes information on where people can find support. If you have recently been diagnosed with young-onset dementia, see booklet 688, Young-onset dementia: Understanding your diagnosis.

Dementia in younger people

People whose symptoms started when they were under the age of 65 are often known as ‘younger people with dementia’ or as having young-onset dementia. This is not for a biological reason, but is based on the fact that 65 was the usual age of retirement for many people.

People sometimes use the terms ‘early-onset dementia’ or ‘working-age dementia’. This information uses the term ‘young-onset dementia’. Dementia is caused by a wide range of different diseases. This is similar for younger and older people (‘late-onset dementia’), but there are important differences in how dementia affects younger people. These include the following:

  • A wider range of diseases cause young-onset dementia.
  • A younger person is much more likely to have a rarer form of dementia.
  • Younger people with dementia are less likely to have memory loss as one of their first symptoms.
  • Young-onset dementia is more likely to cause problems with movement, walking, co-ordination or balance.
  • Young-onset dementia is more likely to be inherited (passed on through genes) – this affects up to 10% of younger people with dementia.
  • Many younger people with dementia don’t have any other serious or long-term health conditions.

Someone who is diagnosed under the age of 65 needs to adjust to living with a long-term condition as a younger person. They might be concerned about the effects this will have on their family, relationships, finances and daily life. They may also be worried that any children or siblings will have a higher risk of developing dementia.

There is more information about these issues throughout this section.

Understanding the genetics of dementia

Read more about the risk factors behind dementia that may be genetic or hereditary.

Genetics of dementia
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