Alzheimer’s and TBI

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The Mayo Clinic explains that “Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die.” Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe the loss of cognitive functioning to such an extent that it interferes with one’s daily life. Early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can include but are not limited to the following examples:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning and/ or problem solving
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Difficulty understanding visual images and/ or spatial relations
  • Misplacing things and lacking the ability to retrace steps
  • New problems with words in writing or speaking
  • Poor judgement

The National Institute on Aging asserts that the signs and symptoms of dementia occur as a result of healthy neurons in one’s brain ceasing to function properly, which prohibits them from connecting with other brain cells and subsequently die. It is natural for people to lose neurons as they age, but those with Alzheimer’s disease experience a far greater loss that occurs more rapidly. 

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a medical condition that can affect one’s physical, neurological, and/ or emotional functioning. The American Association of Neurological Surgery explains that TBI “is a disruption in the normal functioning of the brain that can be caused by a blow, bump or jolt to the head, the head suddenly and violently hitting an object or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.” The specific symptoms that manifest because of a TBI will vary significantly, as they depend on a variety of contributing factors (e.g., the type of injury, the severity of the injury, area of the brain that was injured, etc.). TBIs are classified as mild TBIs or moderate to severe TBIs. The fear surrounding one’s increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s and other types of dementias after sustaining TBI comes with good reason. According to Dementia Resulting From Traumatic Brain Injury, “multiple epidemiologic studies show that experiencing a TBI in early or midlife is associated with an increased risk of dementia late in life.” While it is less clear whether mild TBIs result in increased risk of dementia, research indicates that more severe TBIs increase one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. 

For Information and Support 

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