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Study: brain injury causes increased risk for dementia

Information presented at this year's Alzheimer's Association International Conference points to evidence that those who have suffered a brain injury are twice as likely to experience dementia.

The conclusion was drawn by a seven-year study that examined veterans with brain injury compared to individuals without brain injury. Twice as many that experienced a brain injury also suffered from dementia.

Traumatic brain injury is a widespread problem, far too common among veterans, as well as car accident injury victims, athletes, people who experience falls, and many others.

The study included 281,540 veterans over the age of 55. Of those, 1.7 percent were diagnosed with some sort of traumatic brain injury, most commonly intracranial injury. The unadjusted risk for dementia was more than double for those with brain injury compared to the ones that had not been diagnosed with the condition.

While there might be a number of explanations for the relationships between brain injury and dementia, one of the doctors that conducted the study explained that brain injury can cause a swelling in the axons, which forms connections with neurons. The swelling could skew neuronal communication.

In the past, the link between brain injury and dementia was unclear, some arguing that those who suffer from brain injury do not run an increased a risk of dementia.

The panel that conducted this study found it prudent to probe the elevated risk because of the large population of soldiers who have suffered brain injury on duty in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The findings will possibly aid in treating them and minimize the effect of brain injury.

Part of that treatment includes regular medical attention and screenings for dementia.

Source: Medscape.com: "Brain Injury Linked to a Doubling of Dementia Risk" by Caroline Cassells: July 18, 2011

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