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Tips for diagnosing Alzheimer’s in people with Down syndrome

October 28, 2019

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, experts recommend the following key principles for person-centered diagnosis in people with Down syndrome:

  • Document baseline adult function by age 35. Ongoing evaluation of intellectual, behavioral and social function is important for everyone with Down syndrome. By age 35, each individual’s medical record should ideally include detailed information on his or her adult abilities. The person with Down syndrome, family members, and other reliable individuals are helpful sources for this information.
  • Watch for changes in day-to-day function. Reduced enthusiasm for daily activities, loss of interest in social interactions, and changes in personality and behavior are often early signs of an underlying decline in thinking skills.
  • Consider professional assessment by a dementia expert. A variety of cognitive tests have been used to evaluate thinking changes in adults with Down syndrome. However, experts caution that cognitive tests should never be used as the only benchmark to diagnose dementia.
  • Rule out other causes of symptoms. It’s important to rule out other medical conditions commonly associated with Down syndrome as the cause of changes in thinking and function, including thyroid problems, depression, chronic ear and sinus infections, vision loss and sleep apnea.