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A Traumatic brain injury increases risk of dementia by 24 percent
11 April 2018, 03:58 | Melissa Porter
New research finds link between concussion and dementia
In the largest study of its kind, researchers have found that traumatic brain injury is associated with an increased risk of dementia.
A new way to rapidly assess levels of consciousness in people with head injuries could improve patient care.
"What surprised us was that even a single mild TBI was associated with a significantly higher risk of dementia", said lead author Jesse Fann, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
The risk of dementia increased with the number and severity of injuries, and even concussion was linked with a higher risk of dementia.
'There are 850,000 people with dementia - this number is set to rise to 1 million by 2021 and more research is urgently needed to fill the gaps in our understanding of lifestyle factors that increase dementia risk'. A study of 3.3 million people in Sweden earlier this year showed similar results.
According to the UN's World Health Organisation, about 50 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease - the most common form with about two-thirds of cases.
But it would be advisable for people who had suffered a severe knock to the head - whether in a fall, auto accident, through contact sport, or an assault - to take extra precautions. And they looked at other types of trauma, such as broken bones, and found that brain injuries were more closely tied to dementia. And he clarified that the findings do not suggest that every person who sustains a severe TBI will develop dementia later in life. The risk was increased almost three-fold for people who had suffered five or more TBIs.
Measuring how a patient's pupils react to light could greatly help with treatment decisions for brain injuries, the scientists say.
The findings are particularly worrying in light of recent attention around the risk of concussion in contact sports like boxing, rugby and football. Among 2,794,852 people, they found 258,827 who had had at least one T.B.I. Among first TBI diagnoses, 85 percent had been characterized as mild and 15 percent had been characterized as severe or skull fracture.
Between 1999 and 2013, 4.5 per cent of the study population aged 50 and older were diagnosed with dementia.
Among men and women with TBI histories, men had slightly higher rate of developing dementia (30 percent vs. 19 percent).
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