Can A TBI Cause Dementia?

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common medical condition. 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 skill and enters brain tissue.” The brain is the most complex organ in the body, and when it suffers a trauma the initial effects and possible long-term complications will be largely unknown. There are many possible side effects and symptoms that can develop because of a TBI and are often heavily dependent upon on the TBI classification (e.g., mild, or moderate to severe). The presenting symptoms also depend on the type of injury and the area of the brain that was injured. For some, a TBI may only affect the exact location on the brain where the injury occurred, while for others a TBI could also affect surrounding tissues and cause damage to one’s brain in other areas apart from the initial site. One of the most feared long-term effects of TBIs is dementia, as 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 moderate to severe TBIs increase risk of dementia between two and four-fold. 

What Is Dementia?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains “Dementia is not a specific disease but is rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities.” 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 dementia experience a far greater loss that occurs more rapidly. The causes of dementia can vary. It is important to note that the development of dementia is not considered to be a natural part of the aging process. 

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