Study of Combat Veterans Finds Link Between TBI and Dementia

A newly published medical study involving more than 100,000 military veterans provides evidence of a positive link between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and developing dementia later in life. The findings suggest that civilians who experience a brain injury would also be at greater risk of developing brain injury.

“TBI in older veterans was associated with a 60 percent increase in the risk of developing dementia,” researchers wrote in a study published by Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, and reported by Tech Times and other publications.

“Our results suggest that TBI in older veterans may predispose them toward development of symptomatic dementia and raise concern about the potential long-term consequences of TBI in younger veterans and civilians.”

A TBI can temporarily or permanently impede normal brain function and cause a variety of cognitive, physical and emotional problems, according to the Mayo Clinic. In serious cases, a TBI can be debilitating.

Researchers tracked 188,764 veterans for nine years and found that 16 percent of those who had suffered TBI later developed dementia, while only 10 percent of veterans who were not diagnosed with a brain injury developed the condition.

The results reflect adjustments for other factors that could affect the risk of dementia, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and alcohol abuse.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the incidence of TBI among service members involved in combat has risen dramatically. The study published by Neurology was supported by the U.S. Department of Defense/NCIRE and the National Institutes of Health.

Traumatic brain injuries are damage to the brain caused by an external force, such as a blow to the head in a car accident, a fall or in a sports or recreation injury.

Previously, medical authorities like the Mayo Clinic have said that TBI “may increase the risk” of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Tech Times quotes study researcher Deborah Barnes of the University of California-San Francisco as saying the findings also indicate that veterans with TBI who developed dementia experienced the onset of symptoms about two years earlier than vets without TBI.

Barnes said the cause and effect is not clear, but it may be that the more the brain has been injured, the more vulnerable it is to dementia. She also said TBI may cause the development of brain plaques that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

“If we assume that this relationship is causal, it seems likely that the same increased risk probably occurs with TBI in the civilian population as well,” Barnes told Science Daily.

Jacob Masters

Jacob Masters is a freelance writer and author who has worked in the health industry for over a decade. His goal in life is to increase the internet knowledge base one article at a time. He also likes to push the boundaries through his city wide evening excursions as a guerilla gardener.
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