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About Alzheimer's & Dementia

Types of dementia Traumatic Brain Injury

Helpful Downloads

  • TBI Fact Sheet

    A handy reference in an easy to print and share PDF

  • Brain diagram

    A visual map of the brain lobes and related functions

Helpful Downloads

  • TBI Fact Sheet

    A handy reference in an easy to print and share PDF

  • Brain diagram

    A visual map of the brain lobes and related functions

What is Traumatic Brain Injury, and how is it associated with dementia?

Traumatic brain injury results from an impact to the head that affects normal brain function and may affect a person’s cognitive abilities including learning and thinking skills.
 
Certain types of brain injury may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia later in life. Dementia occurring as a result of traumatic brain injury is progressive over time- and can affect life span and complicate the management of coexisting health conditions.
 
Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury for people of all ages. People aged 75 and older have the highest rates of traumatic brain injury-related hospitalization and death due to falls. The direct effects of the injury can include unconsciousness; inability to recall the traumatic event; confusion; difficulty learning and remembering new information; trouble speaking coherently; unsteadiness; lack of coordination and problems with vision or hearing. Some of these changes could be long-lasting or permanent.

What changes can I expect?

Symptoms of a brain injury include:
  • Unconsciousness
  • Inability to recall the cause of the injury or events that occurred immediately before or up to 24 hours afterward
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Difficulty learning new information
  • Headaches & dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Trouble speaking coherently
  • Changes in emotions or sleep patterns
The severity of symptoms depends on whether the injury is mild, moderate or severe.
 

Types of traumatic brain injuries

Traumatic brain injuries can be classified as mild, moderate or severe, depending on whether the injury causes unconsciousness; the duration of that period of unconsciousness; and the severity of symptoms. Even a mild traumatic brain injury can have serious and long-lasting effects.

Mild traumatic brain injury
Also known as a concussion, may cause unconsciousness for 30 minutes or less, or may not cause any loss of consciousness. Symptoms often appear at the time of injury or immediately afterward, but occasionally may not develop for days or weeks. Symptoms are usually temporary and resolve within hours, days or weeks, but they can last months or longer.

Moderate traumatic brain injury
Leads to loss of consciousness lasting more than 30 minutes. Symptoms are similar to those of mild traumatic brain injury but more serious and longer-lasting.

Severe traumatic brain injury
Causes loss of consciousness for more than 24 hours. Symptoms are also similar to those of moderate traumatic brain injury but are very serious and can last for an extended period of time, even becoming permanent.

What are the causes?

Falls
The most common cause of traumatic brain injury in older adults. Direct effects of the injury for senior citizens may result in long-term cognitive changes, reduced ability to function and changes in emotional health.
 
Motor vehicle accidents
You can reduce your risk by keeping your vehicle in good repair, following the rules of the road and buckling up.
 
Sports injuries
Also a cause of traumatic brain injury. Protect your head by wearing a helmet and other protective equipment when biking, skating or playing contact sports.
 

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosis of traumatic brain injury is often based on history, assessment of the person’s loss of consciousness, a detailed neurological exam, including examination of the reflexes, and imaging studies such as CT to rule out bleeding or swelling in the brain.

Research findings

Research done in the last 20-30 years has established a link between moderate and severe traumatic brain injury and greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia years after the brain injury has occurred. There is no evidence to suggest that a single mild traumatic injury would increase the risk of dementia.
 
One of the key studies found that older adults with a history of moderate traumatic brain injury had a 2.3 times greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease than others with no history of brain injury. People with a history of severe traumatic brain injury had a 4.5 times greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
 
Studies also suggest that repeated mild traumatic brain injuries, such as those that can occur in sports like boxing, football, hockey and soccer, may be associated with a greater risk of a type of dementia called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

What kind of treatment is available?

Most traumatic brain injuries are mild and can be managed with either a short hospital stay for observation or at-home monitoring followed by outpatient rehabilitation (if needed). However, the most serious brain injuries require specialized hospital care and months of inpatient rehabilitation.
 
Treatment of dementia in a person with a history of traumatic brain injuries depends on the type of dementia diagnosed.
The strategies for treating Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia remain the same, regardless of the presence or absence of a history of brain injury.
Source: www.alz.org

Helpful Downloads

  • TBI Fact Sheet

    A handy reference in an easy to print and share PDF

  • Brain diagram

    A visual map of the brain lobes and related functions