People with Down syndrome 'have very high risk of suffering dementia,' say researchers
The risk of dementia is very high in people with Down syndrome, according to research from Trinity College.
By 65 years of age, some 80pc of people with the condition will develop dementia, with the average age of onset at 52.
The research, which was discussed at a conference to mark World Down Syndrome Day yesterday, was told that this compares with a prevalence of dementia in the general population of between 4.6pc and 8.6pc.
"There are still many aspects of Down syndrome and dementia that we do not understand," said Professor Mary McCarron, a principal investigator.
"In Ireland, people with Down syndrome and their carers struggle to get a diagnosis of dementia and post-diagnostic supports are sketchy and variable.
"There is a real and pressing urgency in Ireland to develop skills in dementia recognition and assessment for people with Down syndrome and other forms of intellectual disability.
"We need valid diagnostic standards, and we need to determine what specific neuropathology actually causes dementia."
There is also a problem in accessing mainstream memory clinics for people with Down syndrome.
"Access is often based on chronological age which is not suitable for a population that uniquely can develop dementia in their 40s or 50s and be denied access to a service because they are not over 65 years of age," said Prof McCarron.
"Healthcare professionals in mainstream memory clinics often lack the appropriate skillset and expertise to assess and diagnose dementia in this population which is often highly complex," she pointed out.
People with Down syndrome are often absent from clinical trials, it emerged.