Teenager Becomes Youngest Person Ever Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s Disease
A 19-year-old in China is now the youngest person ever to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The teenager was discovered to have a neurodegenerative disease in 2022, but a study by Beijing researchers was not published until January of this year. Researchers say the shocking diagnosis may impact how scientists understand the disease.
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The teen, whose name was not disclosed in the study, was treated at the Capital Medical University’s Xuanwu Hospital in Beijing. According to doctors, his symptoms first began when he was seventeen. Previously a star student, the boy started having difficulties concentrating and could not focus on his studies.
One year later, his symptoms dramatically worsened.
“He could not recall events from just one day prior or the places of his personal belongings,” the study recounted. “He also had difficulty reading and reacting.” He became unable to remember simple day-to-day events, such as when he had previously eaten. His memory loss eventually worsened to the point where he was forced to withdraw from school. The boy’s family turned to the hospital’s neurology department for answers.
Doctors probed the family’s history and discovered nothing suggesting any risk factors. Nobody in his family, including his grandparents, had any history of dementia, cognitive decline, or other neurological illnesses. The boy’s childhood was normal—he had never experienced head injuries or psychological disorders. Doctors quickly ruled out all common causes of cognitive impairment in teens, including trauma, infection, intoxication, and inflammation.
The boy then underwent a full battery of tests which revealed several markers of Alzheimer’s disease. The results stunned researchers. Not only was their patient the youngest Alzheimer’s patient ever recorded, but he is the only case under the age of 30 not to possess any known genetic mutations for the disease. The next youngest case ever reported was 21 years old.
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The findings were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. George Perry, the journal’s editor-in-chief and a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, stated, “This case brings attention to the heterogeneous nature of dementia that can involve people at any age.” He continued,
“Significantly, this finding may separate Alzheimer’s disease from the complexity of aging and open the field to new concepts to promote innovation.”
Perry’s comments were reported in the South China Morning Post.
The researchers behind the new study argued that their findings are likely to reshape the way scientists approach Alzheimer’s disease research. They also said that further research into early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is expected to prove incredibly difficult,
“Exploring the mysteries of young people with Alzheimer’s disease may become one of the most challenging scientific questions of the future.”
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According to the CDC, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia for older adults, with nearly six million Americans living with the disease. Less than 6 percent of Alzheimer’s cases occur in patients younger than 65.
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