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Brain Injuries & Parkinson’s Disease

One of the frightening things about brain injury research is that that more we uncover, the more long-term consequences are found. Without digging deep, at first blush the consequences of these injuries (even “mild” brain injuries, like concussions) only appear to be the symptoms that manifest immediately–things like head pain, fatigue, or dizziness. When those feelings go away, then everything is healed and there is no harm done, right? Wrong. The more our medical experts learn about traumatic brain injuries, the more severe and long-term consequences are becoming apparent.

Even less serious brain injuries are not some mild event that can be shaken off in short order. The changes to the brain caused by these injuries may very well play a role in a range of physical problems that might not manifest for years (or even decades) later.

For example, a new ABC News story discussed a survey that sought to examine Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a movement disorder that causes tremors and usually comes with a loss of coordination. Researchers were seeking to identify anything about sufferers’ experiences that might indicate a connection to the development of the medical condition. The results, published in the recent issue of the journal Neurology, identify several very clear events which significantly increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Perhaps not surprisingly, head trauma was on that list. According to the story, those who had suffered a head injury at any point in their lives were more likely to suffer from Parkinson’s later in life. In addition, those who had suffered a head injury and were also exposed at some point in their lives to the herbicide paraquat were more than 300% more likely to develop Parkinson’s. Paraquat is a common week killer. Researchers indicated that, even without clear expsoure to the herbicide, those with Parkinson’s were more than twice as likely as others to have suffered a head injury at some point in their lives.

Of course, these are not minor correllations, and so it is critical for those who may be in this situation to pay close attention to the research and it’s follow up understandings. Overall, Parkinson’s remains a somewhat mysterious condition. However, this research and others are suggesting that, different than past predictions, it may be caused by environmental factors in addition to (or instead of) merely genetic predispositions.

On eauthor of the study explained that perhaps the most important lesson to learn from this preliminary survey is the benefit of avoiding certain chemicals, particuarly if you have a brain injury past. As with so many brain trauma-related conditions, there are few guaranteed consequences. Instead, the harm usually increases the odds of ancillary conditions developing down the road.
One researchers explained, ” Based on the current study, this recommendation to avoid heavy pesticide exposure may be particularly important for people who have a history of significant head trauma with loss of consciousness for more than 5 minutes, as they may be particularly susceptible to the subsequent effects of pesticide exposure.”

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