Is There A Correlation Between Traumatic Brain Injury And Dementia?

Updated on November 24, 2020

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury to the brain that results from an assault, collision, or other types of violent encounters. It’s a severe injury that can cause lasting, permanent damage to the brain tissue. With the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries, studies revealed a possible link to traumatic brain injury and risk of dementia later in life.  

The word ‘Dementia’ refers to a group of symptoms including memory, language, problem-solving, and reasoning difficulties. These symptoms can become severe over time, affecting everyday life for an individual with dementia. 

Dementia has no single cause but can be linked to many different factors. There are several reasons why someone may have dementia, such as stroke, exposure to certain drugs, and brain injuries.  

What Is A Traumatic Brain Injury? 

Traumatic brain injury damages a person’s brain due to a sudden blow or jolt to their head. The main injury caused in this case is the injury to the brain’s skull. Other things that can cause injuries to the skull, such as repetitive stress, may also cause the skull to rupture. 

Although most of these brain injuries are often debilitating, some people can recover fully from their injuries. However, many brain injuries will continue to affect the patient for the rest of their lives. For these people, treatment methods vary according to their particular needs and the severity of their injury. 

Doctors use a variety of techniques to help the brain heal after the initial injury. They often focus on preventing further damage by treating the injury first. Treatment that involves treating the entire brain, including the spinal cord, nerves, and blood vessels, is known as rehabilitation or cognitive rehabilitation therapy.  

In this type of treatment, the person will learn to use the body in new ways, improve muscle tone and strength, use muscles to control muscle contractions better, and improve balance. Physical therapy may also help improve mobility and strength. In severe TBI cases, the patient may need to have surgery to correct any damage that may have occurred to the skull, spinal cord, nerves, or blood vessels. 

Here are the different types of traumatic brain injuries:  

  • Concussion – This type of injury occurs when the person is hit with a hard object or some jarring force. Several symptoms can accompany a concussion, including memory loss, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, headache, and even depression. 
  • Subdural hematoma This occurs when the brain becomes damaged or filled with fluid because of an injury to the brain’s cerebrospinal fluid. This can occur from a fall, a hit, or a disease, like a stroke. 

When the brain’s fluid begins to leak out, it’s called a subdural hemorrhage. This type of bleeding can be very dangerous if left untreated because it tends to progress into a stroke. A stroke is a focal ischemic attack (IFIA) and can be fatal in as many as 50% of cases. In these cases, the bleeding in the brain is so severe that it can interfere with the brain’s ability to function. 

  • Ischemic neuropathy – This condition occurs when blood flow to certain brain tissues is cut off. This occurs due to injury to the brain nerve cells that travel from one area of the body to another. Sometimes, this injury is caused by a stroke. 

The effects of ischemic neuropathy vary from one person to another but can include numbness, weakness, leg weakness, and paralysis. 

How to recognize a traumatic brain injury? The first thing you may notice about someone who has suffered a TBI is that they may not have any recollection of the incident that caused them to receive it. This can be devastating because it means they couldn’t control their actions at the time of the accident. Other signs include difficulty talking and understanding what you’re saying, loss of balance, headaches, seizures, dizziness, nausea, and disorientation. 

When a person has suffered a TBI, several things should be done to help them deal with the situation. First of all, they need medical attention. This can often involve surgery to help reduce the extent of the injuries. A person with this type of brain injury may also need to have their memory restored to remember their surroundings and things that had happened in the past. 

Long-Term Effects Of Traumatic Brain Injury 

The effects of a brain injury can range from mild to severe. It’s quite common for some brain injury victims to being unaware that they have had an accident. Most of the time, they may seem to be in good health but when confronted with some memory loss or trouble concentrating, they may realize something is wrong. 

Some of the long-term effects of this brain trauma include the inability to concentrate, short-term memory loss, impaired speech, problems with coordination, difficulty with fine motor skills, difficulty understanding, learning new tasks, and even depression. All of these symptoms can become very serious. If a victim suffers from more than just short-term memory loss, they may have dementia later in life. 

Understanding Dementia 

Alzheimer’s disease is probably the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is an ever-increasing and often fatal disease for the elderly. Dementia isn’t always directly correlated with Alzheimer’s, but it’s very closely linked with the disease’s progression. Alzheimer’s disease affects memory, thinking ability, a person’s personality, their ability to make decisions, and to communicate with others. 

Understanding both dementia and Alzheimer’s and the distinction between them is very important. This will help many people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and their family and caregivers to have a proper understanding of what they’re experiencing. 

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is caused by the death of neurons in the brain that affect memory and thinking ability. The number of neurons in the brain decreases as the brain ages. With this, some areas of the brain continue to function, and some become non-responsive while others degenerate over time. This is how Alzheimer’s disease progresses–the areas that are non-responsive degenerate and then die to the point where all brain cells will die. 

Some studies have shown that genetics can be the main reason for dementia. The other factor that has been linked is thought to be changed in our lifestyle. In the past, doctors used to prescribe drugs that were designed to stop the brain’s chemical reactions, which were contributing to the disease. However, these methods have now been abandoned. 

Many different types of treatments have been developed using various methods such as drugs, cognitive therapy, physical exercises, and nutritional supplements. In recent years, more natural treatments, such as herbal tea, have also gained popularity. If you’re concerned that you or a loved one may have dementia, you should talk to your doctor about the various types of treatment available.

Connection Between Traumatic Brain Injury And Dementia 

When the traumatic brain injury results in degenerative neurological disease, this can be a sign of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. A brain injury diagnosis is only made when all other forms of neurological symptoms are present, such as seizures, decreased consciousness, loss of motion, and speech that are difficult to understand or comprehend. 

There’s still much debate over whether or not traumatic brain injury causes dementia. While some scientists are still convinced that brain injury does indeed cause it, others believe that there’s no connection between brain injuries and the development of dementia. 

Some studies revealed that the risk of dementia diagnosis was the highest during the first year in a person who sustained a traumatic brain injury. During this time, it was found that having a traumatic brain injury gives a person four out of six times to develop dementia compared to those who didn’t have a brain injury.  

It was also said that the overall risk decreased over time, but TBI patients still had a higher risk of developing dementia even 30 years later. Another follow-up of the research revealed that the risk for dementia diagnosis increased to 80% to people who had at least experienced traumatic brain injury once compared to those who don’t.  

Researchers emphasize that the studies may not prove that TBI causes dementia, but the two conditions are linked. Experts also say that not all TBIs are the same. Those who had mild brain injuries may not have the same risk of developing dementia as severe brain injuries.  

There’s still a lot of evidence that points to the fact that brain injury does indeed cause dementia. Unfortunately, because the studies that have been conducted so far tend to focus on those who have sustained traumatic brain injuries in the past, those who may have sustained them in the present are not included in these studies. This is a big problem because if a traumatic brain injury is indeed associated with the development of dementia, there’s no way to prove that these findings are accurate. In other words, there’s still much more research that needs to be done. 

However, one clear thing is that those who have suffered from a traumatic brain injury may find themselves having problems with memory, thinking clearly, and processing information. For this reason, it’s highly recommended that anyone who has sustained a traumatic brain injury to receive regular checkups from a medical doctor.  

How To Avoid Developing Dementia After Traumatic Brain Injury 

Caring about traumatic brain injury can be a tough experience. Many suffer from short-term or mild brain injuries that can affect their ability to normally function for quite some time. For example, a severely injured person in a car accident may have short-term memory loss, difficulty with speech, understanding, judgment, and concentration, all of which can lead to problems later on. 

Medical care and rehabilitation are equally important for those suffering from such injuries. Because of their injuries, they’ll need assistance in walking, talking, and concentrating. They’ll also require special equipment to help them carry out everyday activities without experiencing any type of movement. 

After all the rehab and treatment for traumatic brain injury, it’s important to keep yourself healthy to prevent dementia from developing. A healthy diet is important because your brain and the rest of your body need a well-balanced diet. It would be best if you had plenty of calcium, protein, and iron. The better your diet, the fewer chances you have of developing dementia because your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs. 

Another way to learn how to avoid developing dementia is to keep yourself mentally alert. When you get stressed, you tend to lose focus. This will lead you to forget things, especially things that you’re not supposed to forget. Ensure that you find time to relax and think about things that you didn’t get done at work. 

Final Thoughts 

The effects of traumatic brain injury can be experienced in the long-term. This is why many people who suffer from this accident must always consult their doctors and follow their orders for the right treatment and rehabilitation.  

Some people experience personality changes that can negatively impact their lives. If the brain injury caused this change, it might affect the person’s ability to adapt and function properly. Being able to handle the emotional effects of a traumatic brain injury can be difficult. The person may feel extremely anxious that they’re unable to communicate with other people and may experience feelings of depression and hopelessness.  

If the person who has suffered from a brain injury doesn’t receive mental health treatment, their condition could become even worse and cause more serious complications. If the injury lasts for a long time, it can affect a person’s ability to perform in school, work, and participate in recreational activities. This can lead to low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence. If the injury affects a person’s ability to think rationally, their thought processes can become impaired and their memory may become poor. 

To avoid the development of dementia in people who have already suffered a traumatic brain injury, taking care of the mind and body is essential. Having a healthy lifestyle and finding a good support system will ensure that a brain injury’s long-term effects will be managed.

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