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Genetics of dementia

2-minute read

We don't yet fully understand how genes influence our chance of getting dementia. Usually people get dementia randomly and it's not inherited from their parents. If you have a close relative with dementia, your risk of your getting it is only slightly higher than it is for other people.

There isn't a single gene that is responsible for most types of dementia. However, some rare types of dementia can be inherited. These include:

  • Familial Alzheimer's Disease (FAD)
  • CADASIL (a type of dementia caused by reduced blood flow to the brain)
  • Huntington's disease
  • frontotemporal dementia (some forms only)

If a parent has the type of gene or genes that causes these rare types of dementia, then their children will have a higher chance of inheriting the condition and developing that type of dementia, often in their middle age.

Genetic testing

Deciding whether to have a genetic test or not is difficult. You might naturally want to know if you will develop dementia in future, but there are downsides to knowing too. It also depends on the nature of the genetic transmission of the condition. It is essential to have specialised genetic counselling before deciding to have a genetic test. You can discuss genetic counselling with your doctor or call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 to arrange an appointment with a counsellor.

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Last reviewed: October 2018

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