A new study involving veterans has revealed that a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury — whether mild, moderate or severe — is associated with an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, and with developing the neurological disorder at a younger age.
Published Wednesday in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, the study found that the amount of risk of developing the disease was associated with the severity of the injury. Following a mild injury, usually diagnosed as a concussion, the increased risk was 56 percent, but moderate to severe injury raised the risk by 83 percent, CNN reported.
Parkinson’s disease is an incurable neurological disorder that can cause tremors, stiffness and difficulty balancing, walking and coordinating body movements.
“Because of the size of the study, this now really provides the highest level of evidence to date that even mild TBI increases risk for Parkinson’s disease,” said lead study author Dr. Raquel C. Gardner, a neurologist and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Gardner noted that “up to 40 percent of adults have had a mild traumatic brain injury.”
After accounting for variables such as age, health conditions and other factors, researchers discovered that veterans with any type of traumatic brain injury had a 71 percent increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Those who sustained moderate to severe traumatic brain injury had an 83 percent increased risk, and those with mild traumatic brain injury had a 56 percent increased risk.
Parkinson’s disease was also diagnosed, on average, two years earlier in veterans with a history of traumatic brain injury than it was in those unaffected.
The study findings support the argument in favor of “timely identification, assessment and treatment” of even mild brain injury in military veterans, according to Gardner. Results of the study pointed to the need for improved care and funding for research of this common injury among veterans, an at-risk population.
An estimated 42 million people worldwide are affected by concussion or mild traumatic brain injury, research has revealed. A separate recent study suggested that concussion is a growing problem among the elderly.
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