More people here are being diagnosed with young onset dementia and the number is set to grow amid increasing awareness among the public as well as the medical community, according to the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI).
NNI data showed that the number of new patients with young onset dementia seen at the national centre for the care of patients with this syndrome totalled 245 last year, up from 228 in 2018, 184 in 2017 and 60 in 2013.
Young onset dementia, as the name suggests, refers to the onset of dementia between the ages of 35 and 65.
Dementia is a term for a set of symptoms such as memory loss and difficulties with thinking or language skills that affect a person's ability to perform everyday activities.
It is caused by disorders affecting the brain and usually occurs in people over 65.
Associate Professor Nagaendran Kandiah, a senior consultant at NNI's department of neurology, said the average age of their patients with young onset dementia is 55.3 years, with the youngest at just 46.
The increased number of patients with young onset dementia could also be due to the higher prevalence of vascular risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes today.
"High blood pressure that is poorly controlled in middle age significantly increases the risk of vascular dementia, which can strike people in their 40s and 50s," said Prof Nagaendran, who is also the director of NNI's dementia and cognitive neuroscience programme.
"Therefore, it is likely that we will see more cases unless people start taking their chronic conditions seriously and tighten up their control."
Prof Nagaendran said there is a higher prevalence of 20 per cent to 30 per cent for genetic causes for dementia in young onset dementia, compared with 5 per cent in the elderly with dementia.
He said that older patients appear to have a memory disorder - forgetfulness - for the most part when they seek help for their dementia, while younger patients have more varied symptoms, including behavioural changes, forgetfulness and difficulties with planning, sequencing and judgment.
There is no cure for young onset dementia or other forms of dementia as yet.
Treatment aims to improve symptoms and enhance a patient's quality of life. Apart from medications, there are also behavioural therapies, counselling and education to improve care for patients with dementia and their families, said Prof Nagaendran.
Patients may also benefit from advice on appropriate care facilities and legal issues, he added.
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