When a parent has developed Alzheimer’s disease, the children are at risk of inheriting the condition. Genetic testing from a company such as Pathway Genomics Corporation allows them to learn whether they have inherited a gene that could cause the problem in the future. The test cannot confirm that this person actually will develop Alzheimer’s, however, nor at what age symptoms are likely to appear.
The decision about whether or not to have this testing done can be agonizing. The person may not even want to know about the elevated risk if there is no certainty about disease occurrence. Simply having a parent with the disease should mean that the adult children monitor themselves for troublesome signs. They then will be able to quickly acquire the most cutting-edge treatment if they are eventually diagnosed.
Certain medications can reduce symptoms in the short term and prolong cognitive function. Disease progression does not stop, however. Researchers are working to produce medications that do slow or stop disease progression, and clinical trials are taking place. One day, there may be a treatment that reverses the initial effects and heals the brain.
A form of this illness known as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease can be predicted with more certainty. An inherited gene mutation is responsible. If an individual tests positive for that mutation, it is certain that Alzheimer’s will begin before age 65. Often, it begins around age 50.
This person has probably already dealt with a middle-aged parent or grandparent becoming increasingly confused and mentally impaired. The prospect of getting genetic testing can be scary. It may seem that life is essentially over if the mutation is present.
Implications of the Testing
Medical studies have shown that most people do not regret having the testing done, even if they have the mutation. Not knowing was more worrisome. Armed with the important knowledge, they can make some plans for their near future, enroll in relevant clinical trials and be alert for the first definitive signs. At that point, they can make important decisions about finances and how they want to live in the years ahead.