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Alzheimer's Disease

Testing Family Members For Dementia

02/25/2009

Question:

My father, age 79, (1 of 8 children) has dementia. Of the 8 children 4 have been diagnosed with some form of dementia. Of the remaining siblings, 1 died too young to exhibit any symptoms. My father`s symptoms did not appear before the age of 60. However, I wonder if there is any benefit in testing for myself and my siblings for any pre-disposition for the disease?

Answer:

Since your father and presumably his siblings did not have dementia symptoms before the age of 60, the chance of a genetic form of dementia that could be tested by a blood sample is exceedingly small. Also since we have no known or proven treatments at this time, for prevention or disease modification of Alzheimer's disease, there is little reason for evaluation until there is some hint of cognitive impairment in yourself or your siblings. If there is evidence of cognitive deficits, evaluation is warranted. Hopefully in the not so distant future, we will have different answers regarding these issues.

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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