Can a head injury cause or hasten Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia?

Answer From Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.

The immediate effects of a head injury can include symptoms that are also seen in dementia, such as confusion and memory loss, as well as changes in speech, vision and personality. Depending on the severity of your injury, these symptoms may clear up quickly, last a long time or never go away completely.

However, such symptoms that begin soon after your injury generally don't get worse over time as happens with Alzheimer's disease.

Certain types of head injuries, however, may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementias later in life. The factors that seem to affect your risk include your age at the time of the injury and the severity of the injury.

More-severe head injuries may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. And sustaining a head injury when you're older, around age 55, may also increase your risk. Repeated mild injuries also may increase your risk of future problems with thinking and reasoning.

You're likely at greatest risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer's later in life, post-head injury, if you also have other risk factors. For example, carrying one form of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene increases the risk of Alzheimer's in any individual.

It's important to note that many people who sustain a severe head injury never develop Alzheimer's disease or later dementia. More research is needed to understand the link.

With

Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D.

April 20, 2019 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. MIND diet may cut Alzheimer's risk
  2. Adult day service
  3. Alzheimer's sleep problems
  4. Alzheimer's: New treatments
  5. Helping an Alzheimer's caregiver
  6. Alzheimer's 101
  7. Alzheimer's and dementia care: 8 tips for doctor visits
  8. Alzheimer's and daily tasks
  9. Alzheimer's and dementia: Tips for daily care
  10. Understanding the difference between dementia types
  11. Mediterranean diet
  12. Alzheimer's disease
  13. Alzheimer's disease: Can exercise prevent memory loss?
  14. Alzheimer's drugs
  15. Alzheimer's genes
  16. Alzheimer's nose spray: New Alzheimer's treatment?
  17. Alzheimer's or depression: Could it be both?
  18. Alzheimer's prevention: Does it exist?
  19. Alzheimer's stages
  20. Alzheimer's test: Detection at the earliest stages
  21. Alzheimer's and holidays
  22. Antidepressant withdrawal: Is there such a thing?
  23. Antidepressants and alcohol: What's the concern?
  24. Antidepressants and weight gain: What causes it?
  25. Antidepressants: Can they stop working?
  26. Antidepressants: Side effects
  27. Antidepressants: Selecting one that's right for you
  28. Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?
  29. Anxiety disorders
  30. Atypical antidepressants
  31. Axona: Medical food to treat Alzheimer's
  32. Benefits of being bilingual
  33. Caffeine and depression: Is there a link?
  34. The role of diet and exercise in preventing Alzheimer's disease
  35. Can music help someone with Alzheimer's?
  36. Can yoga help me keep caregiver stress in check?
  37. Caregiver stress
  38. Dementia caregiving: Dealing with the strain on your marriage
  39. Long-distance caregiving
  40. Clinical depression: What does that mean?
  41. CT scan
  42. CT scans: Are they safe?
  43. Depression and anxiety: Can I have both?
  44. Depression, anxiety and exercise
  45. Depression: Diagnosis is key
  46. Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap
  47. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  48. Depression: Provide support, encouragement
  49. Depression: Supporting a family member or friend
  50. Diabetes and Alzheimer's
  51. Diagnosing Alzheimer's
  52. Does obstructive sleep apnea increase my risk for Alzheimer's disease?
  53. Alzheimer's elder care
  54. Fish oil and depression
  55. Folic acid supplements: Can they slow cognitive decline?
  56. Ginkgo biloba: Can it prevent memory loss?
  57. Home safety tips for Alzheimer's caregivers
  58. How can I cope with caregiver guilt?
  59. Huperzine A: Can it treat Alzheimer's?
  60. Improve brain health with the MIND diet
  61. Intermittent fasting
  62. Is the definition of Alzheimer's disease changing?
  63. Depression and diet
  64. Lexapro side effects: Is breast tenderness common?
  65. Male depression: Understanding the issues
  66. MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?
  67. Marijuana and depression
  68. Mayo Clinic Minute: 3 tips to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease
  69. Mayo Clinic Minute: Alzheimer's disease risk and lifestyle
  70. Mayo Clinic Minute New definition of Alzheimer's changes
  71. Mayo Clinic Minute: Women and Alzheimer's Disease
  72. Mediterranean diet recipes
  73. Memory loss: When to seek help
  74. Mild depression: Are antidepressants effective?
  75. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  76. MRI
  77. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  78. Nervous breakdown: What does it mean?
  79. New Alzheimers Research
  80. Pain and depression: Is there a link?
  81. Pet therapy
  82. Phantosmia: What causes olfactory hallucinations?
  83. Phosphatidylserine supplements: Can they improve memory?
  84. Positron emission tomography scan
  85. Rapidly progressing Alzheimer's: Something else?
  86. Seeing Inside the Heart with MRI
  87. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  88. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  89. Sharing Alzheimer's diagnosis
  90. Brain anatomy
  91. Sundowning: Late-day confusion
  92. Treatment-resistant depression
  93. Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
  94. Video: Alzheimer's drug shows early promise
  95. MRI
  96. Vitamin B-12 and depression
  97. Vitamin B-12 and Alzheimer's
  98. Vitamin D: Can it prevent Alzheimer's & dementia?
  99. Young-onset Alzheimer's