This kind of study can't prove a cause-and-effect relationship, but researchers tried to eliminate the possible effect of age, gender, marital status and health, including depression.
"Individuals with a history of TBI, including those with less severe injuries have an increased risk of developing dementia, even decades after the injury".
T.B.I. has a wide range of severity.
A single severe traumatic brain injury raised the chances of developing dementia by more than a third.
The study was published April 10 in The Lancet Psychiatryjournal. Among 2,794,852 people, they found 258,827 who had had at least one T.B.I.
"Severe TBI is particularly frequent in young people, and it is concerning that the risk of dementia is particular high in relatively young persons who suffer TBI", co-author Jakob Christensen, an associate professor of neurology at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, said in a statement. Among first TBI diagnoses, 85 percent had been characterized as mild and 15 percent had been characterized as severe or skull fracture.
Scientists know that a blow to the head can damage brain cells, but they don't know exactly how that might lead to later cognitive problems, said lead researcher Dr. Jesse Fann of University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.
"I don't want people to think that just because you've had a head injury you're bound to get dementia", he said.
A traumatic brain injury can be caused by a fall, a traffic accident, a sports accident or a violent attack.
Dementia affects 47 million people worldwide and the number of patients is expected to double in the next 20 years. The highest risk of dementia was seen in the first six months after TBI (hazard ratio, 4.06), and the risk also increased with an increasing number of TBI events (hazard ratios, 1.22 to 2.83 for one TBI to five or more TBIs).
Every year, over 50 million people worldwide experience a TBI, which occurs when an external force disrupts the brains normal function. Between 1999 and 2013, 126,734 people (4.5%) aged 50 or older were diagnosed with dementia. "Our findings do not suggest that everyone who suffers a traumatic brain injury will go on to develop dementia in later life".
Measuring pupil reactivity to light could assist with treatment decisions for brain injuries, they say. The findings also show that men with a history of TBI had a slightly higher risk of developing dementia than women. Each additional brain injury added to the danger.
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