If you’re caring for a relative living with dementia, it’s natural to be concerned about whether or not you or your children will develop the disease. In reality, there are actually different kinds of dementia – and most of them are not hereditary.
Read on to learn about the common types of dementia, and what the chances are for people with relatives diagnosed with dementia to develop the disease.
First, be aware that there are four common types of dementia – vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies (LBD), frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and Alzheimer’s. Some types of dementia are more hereditary than others.
Second, it’s important to know about the role of genes when it comes to heredity.
Genes are the basic units of heredity that pass on characteristics like hair colour, height, or the tendency to inherent certain diseases.
They’re found in our chromosomes, and are frequently compared to thousands of beads on a string.
Women have 22 pairs of chromosomes in addition to two X chromosomes, and men have 22 pairs of chromosomes in addition to an X and a Y chromosome.
Genes can contain changes or mutations – and some of those mutations are beneficial while others are harmful.
Even if a gene that is associated with a particular disease is present in a person’s chromosomes, it needs to have the mutation or change that causes that disease. In other words:
The above-linked Alzheimer’s Society article is informed by responses from Professor Nick Fox, Honorary Consultant Neurologist at the Institute of Neurology in London. The article tells us:
If your family has the gene that causes eFAD, you can receive predictive testing to determine if the gene has the mutation that causes the disease. In addition to predictive testing, you will always receive careful genetic counselling first.
If you suspect that there are cases of eFAD in your family (as opposed to other forms of dementia that are not hereditary) you need a thorough medical examination to know for sure. Also, if you suspect that someone in your family who is no longer alive had eFAD, their past medical records must be examined carefully.
In conclusion, having an elderly relative in your family that is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s does not mean that the disease will automatically be passed on to you or your immediate family members.
Which, as I mentioned earlier, less than 1% of Alzheimer’s cases are hereditary, meaning that they are instances of early-onset Familial Alzheimer’s Disease.
And for those cases that do carry the diagnosis of eFAD, there is counselling and genetic testing available to help you be prepared for a potential diagnosis should it be come back positive.