Researchers have found that there is no definitive link between cerebral palsy and dementia. However, it may be possible that people with cerebral palsy and co-occurring conditions like epilepsy may have a higher risk of dementia. Learn about the potential links and what scientists have found.
Is There a Link Between Cerebral Palsy and Dementia?
At this time, there is no proven link between cerebral palsy and dementia. A 2018 study from the United Kingdom found that cerebral palsy patients had the same chances of getting dementia as those without this condition.
The only exception to this was when cerebral palsy patients had additional health problems, such as epilepsy or intellectual disorders. Research has noted that these patients had a somewhat higher risk of dementia.
If you are concerned that a loved one with cerebral palsy and another health condition may develop dementia, you should talk to a medical professional. Health care providers can help determine what steps you can take to help your loved one.
Why Are People Concerned About a Link?
Scientists were concerned about a connection between cerebral palsy and dementia due to previous research findings and the fact that both conditions affect mental functioning.
A 2007 study noted that Apolipoprotein E (APOE), a gene associated with heightened risk for Alzheimer’s disease in adults, might also increase the likelihood that brain-injured newborns will develop cerebral palsy.
However, just because the gene presents a higher risk of both conditions does not necessarily mean that there is a link between them. In simpler terms, the researchers did not find that cerebral palsy patients were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s in this case.
Parents may also be concerned about the risks of dementia if a child with cerebral palsy experiences premature aging. According to researchers, most cerebral palsy patients will suffer from some premature aging due to the stress that condition puts on the body.
Fortunately, dementia has not been listed among the symptoms of premature aging in cerebral palsy patients — the most common symptoms are related to physical aging and depression.
Recent Cerebral Palsy and Dementia Research
As of early 2021, research has still not found a definitive link between cerebral palsy and dementia.
For example, the aforementioned 2018 study looked at roughly 1700 people with cerebral palsy and 5100 people without the condition. The researchers found that people with cerebral palsy did not have a higher rate of dementia when compared to unaffected people.
However, the research did suggest some cerebral palsy patients may be at higher risk in certain cases. The study authors noted that those with cerebral palsy and epilepsy together did have a greater risk of dementia.
Researchers are still looking into how conditions such as epilepsy interact with cerebral palsy and what effects they have on the brain. Further research can help explain why these conditions may increase the risk of dementia.
Cerebral Palsy and Dementia: Tips for Concerned Parents
While there is almost no connection between cerebral palsy and early dementia at this time, parents can stay up-to-date on the latest research to see if any links appear. New studies are always being conducted.
If parents notice any changes in their child’s mental health, they can connect with doctors who can address the problems.
Further, it’s not out of the question for adults with cerebral palsy to develop dementia later in life. Speak with your medical providers if dementia or Alzheimer’s runs in your family and you have concerns.
In cases where a child’s cerebral palsy was caused by medical negligence, your family may be eligible to receive financial compensation. This compensation can help pay for health care costs and living expenses throughout the child’s life — even into adulthood. Learn more by getting a free case review.