A new study from the University of California - San Francisco revealed that people suffering from persistent moderate to severe pain are more likely to experience brain changes linked to increase risk of dementia.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, showed that older people with chronic pain experience 9.2 percent faster decline in their memory function than those who are not troubled by pain.
"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," said Elizabeth Whitlock, MD, MSc, a postdoctoral fellow in the UCSF Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care and the first author of the study, in a press release. "This means we have to consider the potential direct effects of chronic pain on cognition."
For the study, the researchers analyzed the data of 10,065 older adults participating in the Health and Retirement Study. The participants were aged 60 years old and above. They answered pain and cognition questions in both 1998 and 2000. The older adults is considered to be under "persistent pain" when they were often troubled by moderate or severe pain in both the 1998 and 2000 interview.
The researchers observed that participants who reported persistent pain declined 9.2 percent faster in tests of memory function over the next decade than those who reported not being troubled by pain. Additionally, older adults who suffered from moderate or severe pain in both interviews have a small but significantly increased risk of developing dementia.
Additional amount of memory decline were observed in participants who reported persistent pain and live independently and managed their own daily living.
The study was not able to include information regarding possible drug use of the participants. Due to this, the researchers can't really determine if opioid use among older adults play a crucial role in decreased memory cognition and increased dementia risk.
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