Does a Link Exist Between Concussions and Alzheimer’s?
The human brain is still a mystery. However, just like any other organ in the human body, the brain requires a substantial amount of protection and care, especially from repeated injuries.
This was highlighted in a recent study that revealed a link between concussions and Alzheimer's disease. At the same time, the study did not confirm concussions to be a direct cause of the disease. Rather, it revealed that there’s a possibility that a head injury could speed up the progression of this condition.
It's not a cause but a contributor
Specifically, the link between concussions and Alzheimer’s was shown to be more prevalent in patients who were already genetically prone to the disease. Also, the damage sustained from these concussions speeds up the progression of Alzheimer’s.
When looking at particular areas of the brain, the blows to the head that directly affect lower cortical thickness are the cause behind the memory loss and mental decline in Alzheimer’s patients—however, it is only at a faster rate as compared to people who had not sustained this type of injury.
A concussion can impact the brain over a long period of time. In just the short term, a person can experience:
- Sleep disturbance
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Irritability and/or other changes in one’s demeanor
- Depression or other psychological problems
These symptoms can occur almost immediately after the injury or even days or weeks afterward.
On the other hand, contributors to the University of Utah Healthfeed Blog state that long term effects are rare; however, the more often concussions occur, the higher the chances of developing complications later on. These include depression and behavioral changes. The repeated injury might explain the alterations to the region of the brain that are most affected by Alzheimer’s, which means that prevention of further head injury might prevent or at least lessen the chances of developing this condition.
The study that discovered this link looked at veterans from Afghanistan
The researchers, as detailed by the co-author of this study, Dr. Jasmeet Hayes of Boston University School of Medicine, examined 160 veterans who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq. These vets were around the age of 32 at the time of the study, and the degrees of head injuries varied in each individual. Some of the vets had suffered only one concussion while others sustained multiple. Only a few had not suffered a concussion at all.