Chronic Pain, Inflammation and Dementia Link


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — In the US, over 50 million people experienced chronic pain in 2021. Worldwide, over 55 million people are living with dementia, with 10 million new cases every year. Scientists at UT Health San Antonio are looking into chronic pain, inflammation and dementia.

Arthritis, back pain, inflammation, and even cancer are common causes of chronic pain. In a study of five hundred thousand UK participants, it was discovered the longer the pain lasts, the higher your risk of developing dementia. In another study, doctors at UT Health San Antonio concluded that pain triggers immune cells to create neuroinflammation that can lead to changes in brain function.

Sudha Seshadri, MD, Founding Dir., Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s & Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio says. “In the study that we had looked at, with framing participants and cardiovascular health study participants, we had seen that the higher markers of soluble CD-14 predicted a higher risk of developing dementias of all types – it was like they were ‘aging faster.’”

New studies are showing that people who have experienced inflammation and chronic pain for more than three months are at a higher risk of developing dementia.

Doctor Seshadri says, “The risk of developing dementia or stroke is multifactorial – a part of it is inflammation, a part of it is, perhaps, other things. So, we expect, that a multi-marker panel may tell an individual which part needs to be more aggressively treated.”

Research continues on ways to prevent dementia.

Doctor Seshadri says the only markers to determine someone’s risk are age, sex, and apoe, but her team is looking at adding blood markers to get a more accurate consensus.

Contributors to this news report include: Adahlia Thomas, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.



REPORT #3141

BACKGROUND: Chronic pain is defined as persistent pain lasting at least three months. It affects more than 50 million adults in the U.S. Chronic pain prevalence is expected to increase in the coming years due to the aging population, the increase in diabetes, and the increase in cancer survival rates. Age, gender, education, and income all play a role in those who experience chronic pain. Chronic pain is significantly more prevalent in women than men, and about 65 percent of adults ages 65 and older experience chronic pain. Adults with less than a high school education make up 24 to 28 percent of all chronic pain patients, and adults with public health insurance are more likely to report chronic pain than those with private health insurance.


INFLAMMATION INCREASES DEMENTIA RISK: A new study from the UK sheds light on the link between inflammation, cognition, and dementia. Utilizing health data from over 500,000 individuals and obtained through the UK Biobank (UKB), researchers were able to take large amounts of data and compare them with cognitive outcomes and dementia risk. Researchers looked at certain blood biomarkers symbolic of inflammation and how these correlated with various cognitive tasks. They found a small association between higher levels of these biomarkers, worse cognitive performance, and higher risk of dementia later in life. “Elevated levels of blood inflammatory markers are often found in elderly individuals and this condition is termed ‘inflammageing.’ Inflammageing carries a high susceptibility to chronic diseases and premature death. We found associations between elevated systemic inflammation biomarker levels, concurrent and later cognitive performance, and future dementia risk,” said Dr. Krisztina Mekli, lead author of the study and a genetic researcher at the University of Manchester.


POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH IN CHRONIC PAIN DETECTION: A group of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, reported performing “the first-in-human, long-term direct brain measurement of chronic pain-related neural activity.” They took four patients with severe refractory neuropathic pain and implanted chronic intracranial electrodes in several areas of the brain related to pain perception by noninvasive measures like EEG and MEG. These areas were specifically the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). This network helps regulate emotional responses to stimuli, both internal and external. The participants reported pain metrics that were correlated with ambulatory, direct neural recordings that were made several times daily over several months. By analyzing the recordings in these brain areas, the authors were able to successfully predict the pain severity scores reported by the patients. These studies open the door to the possibility that soon, physicians treating chronic pain might be able to noninvasively record brain activity and correlate it with chronic pain perception levels and track improvements after therapy and treatments have been administered.


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