Traumatic Brain Injuries May Increase Risk Of Dementia Later In Life: Study

New research highlights the dementia risk that individuals may face later in life due to side effects of a traumatic brain injury that is considered moderate-to-severe. 

In a study published this month in the medical journal in PLOS Medicine, researchers from Finland found that the risk of dementia after a brain injury increases with the severity of the head injury, suggesting a “dose response” relationship, which is often seen as a strong indicator of causation.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by a mild or severe blow to the head that results in trauma, often but not always rendering the person unconscious. Symptoms of head injury include disorientation, confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, vomiting, head aches, and inability to concentrate.

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Researchers looked at data on more than 40,000 people between the ages of 18 and 65, using information from the Finnish Care Register for Health Care. They looked at those hospitalized from 1987 to 2014 with a traumatic brain injury, and looked for a later diagnoses of dementia, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

According to the findings, 3.5% of those who suffered a moderate-to-severe head injury later developed neurodegenerative disease, specifically dementia, while only 1.6% of those who suffered a mild TBI received a similar diagnosis later in life. There were no such increases in the risk for Parkinson’s disease or other health problems.

The findings suggest that the head injuries appear to increase the risk of developing dementia by about 90%.

“Moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury seems to be associated with a risk of future dementia in young and middle-aged adults,” the researchers concluded. “Further studies are required to examine the causal factors contributing to the found association.”

The findings are similar to those of a study published in the journal Neurology in 2014, which also found that patients who suffered a brain injury faced an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.

According to another study published in 2013, many patients who suffer head trauma experience cognitive impairment and face a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

More than 2.8 million head injury-related emergency room (ER) visits, hospitalizations and deaths occurred in the U.S. in 2013. In addition, these head injuries can cause long-term brain damage and disability.

Traumatic brain injury is a major cause of mortality in the United States, resulting in 30 percent of all injury-related deaths. Nearly 1 in 50 ER visits are for TBI related injuries.

Increased focus in recent years has been placed on examining the effects of head injuries on individuals at an early age. Researchers say sports-related TBI rates have increased dramatically since 1990. Some estimates indicate nearly 2 million U.S. children suffer a head injury and don’t receive medical care.

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