You may have heard of someone diagnosed with a concussion as having a “mild” brain injury. Maybe this has happened to you. But there is no such thing as “minor” or “mild” head trauma. It’s all relative. A concussion that gives you headaches and sensitivity to light for months may not be as severe as a blow to the head to causes someone else short-term memory loss and cognitive impairments. But it is still a serious medical problem.
The latest proof of this unfortunate fact is a new study released by the University of Virginia. Researchers there say that a mild concussion can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other neurological problems that can affect senior citizens.
New insight into concussion effects
Their conclusion comes from a new insight the researchers discovered about traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). When a brain is struck, it swells and presses against the skull. The UVA researchers found that this swelling squeezed small lymphatic vessels that help clean the brain. Even after brain swelling passes, the lymphatic vessels’ ability to get rid of toxins in the brain remains damaged. The existence of these lymphatic vessels was controversial until the same research team proved they exist in humans and other mammals. Now the UVA team says that lingering damage to the vessels from a TBI, even a mild one, can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions. It can also accelerate normal cognitive decline associated with age.
Those most at risk of damaged lymphatic vessels leading to Alzheimer’s or dementia are those with pre-existing conditions that affect how their brain drains itself of toxins. The study suggests that with further study, doctors will one day be able to identify those at risk of developing neurological problems as a result of lymphatic vessel damage, and someday even treat the problem.
A TBI can affect you now as well as the future
Just like the long-term consequences of a TBI, the short-term symptoms can also be life-altering. They can cost you thousands of dollars and damage your quality of life while you try to recover.