Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia today. And new studies are now linking traumatic brain injury to greatly increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
Dementia, an umbrella term describing a variety of diseases effecting the brain and nervous system, typically causes nerve cells to die, resulting in changes to memory, behavior, and mental processing. As dementia progresses the person’s ability to carry out normal activities of daily living or sometimes even usual bodily functions deteriorates, ending ultimately in death.
With no cure, Alzheimer's eventually leads to death. The disease, first discovered in 1906 by Alois Alzheimer, affects over 26.6 million victims worldwide. Alzheimer’s which typically occurs in individuals over 65 years of age, is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and requires an estimated 200 Billion in annual payments for care.
Symptoms of dementia related illnesses include a reduced ability to:
– Generate coherent speech
– Understand written language
– Recognize or identify objects
– Execute motor activities
– Think abstractly
Alzheimer’s symptoms, specifically, include:
– Memory loss
– Challenges in planning or solving problems
– Difficulty completing familiar tasks
– Confusion with time and place
– Trouble understanding images
– Problems with speaking or writing
Risk factors for Alzheimer’s include advancing age, family history, and genetic deformity.
Why am I, a San Francisco personal injury attorney, writing about Alzheimer’s? Because as part of my practice representing those injured in automobile motorcycle bicycle and pedestrian accidents, I represent many survivors of traumatic brain injury,. And because recent studies suggest that young adults who experience moderate or severe head injuries now have more than double the risk of developing dementia related illnesses later in life, including Alzheimer’s disease. Looking for an association between head injury and Alzheimer’s, Dr. Brenda Plassman from Duke University, studied more than 7000 US veterans suffering from Alzheimer’s, in an attempt to find a link between head trauma and disease development. The study showed that any medical history of moderate head injury doubled the risk of developing dementia, with severe head injury quadrupling the risk. Moderate head injury is defined as trauma resulting in a loss of consciousness for more than 30 minutes, with severe head injury defined as any loss of consciousness lasting 24 or more hours. Traumatic Brian Injury (TBI) can also be viewed as moderate with other contributing factors such as intra cranial bleeding. So, even if a person has lost consciousness for less than 30 minutes, their TBI might still be categorized as moderate. Individuals who incur repeated head trauma such as football players, boxers, and combat veterans seem to be at the greatest risk of Alzheimer’s development, as concluded by autopsy findings.
Although head injuries have been shown to double the risk, there is no actual proof that they cause Alzheimer’s. The cause for the disease remains unknown.
There are no drugs currently available to slow or stop Alzheimer’s. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved five drugs which may temporarily improve symptoms, but their effects vary among victims. Preventative care is suggested by many physicians, although there is no evidence to support its effectiveness, there have been suggested relationships between diet, medication, and intellectual pursuits, and the development of Alzheimer’s. A regimen of exercise, healthy vitamins, and scholarly activities however, may potentially lower the risk of Alzheimer’s.
As doctors work tirelessly to determine causes and cures for Alzheimer’s it is up to us as individuals to be proactive in our support and awareness for those suffering from the illness. Many who are afflicted by the disease live alone, and are a greater risk of delayed diagnosis, injury, or lack of care as a result of their situation. It is important that we continue to fund Alzheimer’s research, enact government programs and subsidies for those who cannot afford treatments or care, and assist those that are struggling with the disease. We must all work together to improve the lives of others. And as a brain injury lawyer, I believe it is a part of my job to adequately present my clients’ head injuries by including compensation for the greater risk of dementia.
Hello, I'm Claude Wyle. Have an idea for a topic you'd like to see covered here? Feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.CCWLawyers.com.
Claude A. Wyle is a partner of Choulos Choulos, and Wyle, a San Francisco based law firm dedicated to representing clients who have been injured by the wrongful conduct of individuals, corporations, public entities, and businesses. Mr. Wyle also frequently sits as a Judge Pro Tem for the city and county of San Francisco.