Study suggests autoimmune disease, dementia link

March 06, 2017
Autoimmune disease may be linked to a heightened risk of dementia, indicates a large long term study. Although significant, the extent of the association found was small the researchers caution.
 
It has been suggested that autoimmune and inflammatory activity may have a role in the development of dementia. The study’s authors wanted to know if admission to hospital with one of 25 autoimmune diseases – including multiple sclerosis – was associated with a heightened risk of subsequent admission to hospital with dementia.
 
The researchers drew on hospital admissions data from 1998 to 2012 for England. During the period, more than 1.8 million people were admitted with an autoimmune disease. Compared with people admitted to hospital for other causes, those admitted with an autoimmune disorder were 20 percent more likely to be admitted subsequently with dementia, the data showed.
 
Of the 25 autoimmune diseases included in the analysis, 18 were significantly associated with dementia, People with MS showed nearly almost double the risk. The excess risk of dementia was significantly higher for men than for women with MS. Most of these associations remained significant for five or more years after admission to hospital for autoimmune disease. The type of dementia was not always documented, but the risk was 6 percent higher for Alzheimer’s disease, and 28 percent higher for vascular dementia. The higher risk for vascular dementia might reflect associations between autoimmune disease and risk factors for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases more generally the researchers said.
 
This was an observational study so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. Furthermore the research was limited only to people admitted to hospital and so unable to account for potentially influential factors. They emphasize the size of the associations they found was small, so the results should be taken as indicative rather than definitive: further research would be needed to confirm or refute the findings.
 
The findings were published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

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