Falls Can Result in Traumatic Brain Injury
Physicians classify TBI as mild, moderate, or severe depending on whether the injury causes unconsciousness, how long unconsciousness lasts, and the severity of symptoms. Although most TBIs are classified as mild because they're not life threatening, even a mild TBI can have serious and long-lasting effects.
TBI threatens cognitive health in the following two ways:
Brain Injury Symptoms
Mild TBI, known as a concussion, may not result in unconsciousness or results in unconsciousness that lasts for 30 minutes or fewer. Symptoms often appear at the time of the injury or soon after but sometimes may not develop for days or weeks. Mild TBI symptoms usually are temporary and clear up within hours, days, or weeks, but they can last months or longer.
Moderate TBI causes unconsciousness lasting more than 30 minutes. Symptoms of moderate TBI are similar to those of mild TBI but more serious and longer lasting. Severe TBI results in unconsciousness that lasts for more than 24 hours. Symptoms of severe TBI are similar to those of mild TBI but more serious and longer lasting.
Depending on the nature of the TBI and the severity of symptoms, brain imaging with computed tomography (CT) may be needed to determine whether there’s bleeding or swelling in the brain.
Causes and Risks
Other studies, but not all, have found a link between moderate and severe TBI and elevated risk of cognitive impairment. Current research on how TBI changes brain chemistry indicates a relationship between TBI and hallmark protein abnormalities (beta-amyloid and tau) linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Some research suggests that TBI may be more likely to cause dementia in individuals who have a variation of the gene for apolipoprotein E (APOE) called APOE-e4. More research is needed to understand the link between APOE-e4 and dementia risk in those who have experienced a brain injury.
Treatment and Outcomes
Treating dementia in a person with a history of TBIs varies, depending on the type of dementia diagnosed. Strategies for treating Alzheimer’s disease or another specific type of dementia are the same for individuals with and without a history of TBI.
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias that may occur as a long-term result of TBI are progressive disorders that worsen over time. As with all dementias, they affect quality of life, shorten life span, and complicate efforts to manage other health conditions effectively.
— Source: Alzheimer’s Association