A new study out of California suggests that there may be a link between chronic pain and dementia. Researchers followed 10 000 seniors for 12 years and found that those who reported moderate to severe chronic pain at the start of the study as well as two years in showed a faster cognitive decline over the course of the next 10 years than participants who reported no pain. Lead researcher Elizabeth Whitlock stated that “elderly people need to maintain their cognition to stay independent. Up to one in three older people suffer from chronic pain, so understanding the relationship between pain and cognitive decline is an important first step toward finding ways to help this population.” The team has come up with a few possible explanations for this increase in dementia: opioids and other painkillers; pain interfering with the brain’s ability to process other cognitive functions; or another cause not included in the study. More research is warranted to determine which of these is the cause; the results suggest that finding alternative pain management strategies and treating pain effectively could have a neuroprotective effect. And whether pain is the cause or not, it can now serve as a marker for people at elevated risk of developing dementia.
SOURCE: University of California San Francisco: https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2017/06/407236/chronic-pain-linked-increased-risk-dementia-study-older-adults
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: JAMA Internal Medicine: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2629448
DATE RETRIEVED: June 9, 2017