After a 19-year-old got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at a memory clinic in China, many voiced concerns about how the condition could not just be limited to the older population.

The fear of the disease affecting the youth became more serious when the patient’s case was revealed to have started early. The youngest person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, whose identity was not revealed, started experiencing the early signs of the condition years prior.

According to Science Alert, the patient began experiencing memory decline at 17. His cognitive losses also got worse quickly as imaging of his brain showed shrinkage in the hippocampus, the part involved in memory.

The teen’s case brought more attention to the condition typically thought to be an old person’s disease. Patients below 65 only account for 10% of all diagnoses.

Given the patient’s mind-boggling case, many fear that early onset among teens and people below 30 could be happening under the radar. Below are the early warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease everyone should be aware of amid these uncertain times:

  • Memory problems
  • Struggling to find the right word/s
  • Trouble understanding visual images
  • Having a hard time figuring out spatial relationships
  • Impaired reasoning or judgment

The National Institute on Aging said the aforementioned signs and symptoms are typically the first to emerge in early cases. However, the symptoms may vary from one person to another.

In mild cases, a person may appear healthy. But they may be struggling to make sense of the world around them. It usually takes time for the person and their family to realize the medical problem, as per the institute.

Before the teen, the youngest case was a 21-year-old patient with a gene mutation that causes abnormal proteins to build up in the brain.

In the teen’s case, researchers at the Capital Medical University in Beijing could not find the usual mutations responsible for the early onset of the disease. Their genome-wide search also failed to identify any suspect genes, according to his medical team’s report.

The teen’s family never had a history of Alzheimer’s or dementia. His sudden cognitive decline was unexplainable since he did not have other diseases, infections, or even head trauma. His condition only became apparent when he started to find it hard to focus in class.

The team said the patient requires long-term follow-up to manage his condition. They also noted that the bizarre case alters the medical community’s “understanding of the typical age of onset of [Alzheimer’s disease].”

Brain Scan
A picture of a human brain taken by a positron emission tomography scanner, also called PET scan, is seen on a screen on January 9, 2019, at the Regional and University Hospital Center of Brest, western France. Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty Images