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Study indicates link between traumatic brain injury and dementia

Researchers continue to find and shed light on the potential long-term impacts of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Military service members and vets who have suffered TBIs while serving in war zones provide researchers with a wealth of information.

One study recently published in the journal Neurology found that veterans who suffered a TBI, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had a greater chance of suffering from dementia in the future than those who weren't diagnosed with any of those conditions. Further, if they suffered from more than one of them, their risk of developing dementia further increased.

This study, which looked exclusively at females, backed up findings in previous studies on male vets. Researchers studied the records of over 109,000 women who had been treated by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) between 2004 and 2015. Of these, 488 were initially diagnosed only with TBIs. More were diagnosed only with PTSD and over 20,000 were diagnosed solely with depression. More than 5,000 had more than one of these conditions.

In looking at their medical records in subsequent years, researchers found that of the 4,000-plus women who developed dementia, 5.7 percent had earlier been diagnosed with TBI. That was a higher rate than for those diagnosed with one of the other conditions or none of them.

Overall, those who were diagnosed with any of the three conditions following their military service had up to an 80 percent higher chance of developing dementia than those who didn't. Those with more than one condition had nearly twice as high a chance of later having dementia.

The study's lead author, who works at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, says, "While these military risk factors are more common in veterans, they are not unique to the military."

A doctor who specializes in brain injuries (and not involved in the study) notes that some of these vets may have had undiagnosed TBI. He says. "There's an overlap between a history of TBIs and a history of PTSD. Often the two come together and in some cases it's hard to differentiate between the two."

When a victim of a TBI takes legal action against the people or entities responsible for the injury, it's essential to go beyond calculating the relatively short-term costs of medical care and rehabilitation when seeking compensation. It's important to factor in potential long-term expenses and damages as well.

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