Is There a Link Between Dementia and Chronic Pain?

A new study suggests that chronic pain may be linked to dementia. Funded in part by NIA, this study is the first to examine the connection between dementia and self-reported pain over a long period of time.

Researchers analyzed survey responses and electronic health records from Whitehall II, a long-term study of health among adults ages 35 and older. Participants answered multiple surveys, some over the course of 27 years, about self-reported pain intensity and how much it interfered with their life. Researchers used electronic health records to determine if (and when) participants were diagnosed with dementia.

Researchers found that people diagnosed with dementia reported slightly more pain as early as 16 years before their diagnosis. Pain that interfered with everyday life was more strongly linked to dementia, and reports of pain rapidly increased as people came closer to receiving a dementia diagnosis. These findings suggest that chronic pain might be an early symptom of dementia or may be caused by similar pathways or processes as dementia. Future studies with data on the cause, type, location, and other specifics of the pain may help explain the link between dementia and pain.

Visit the NIA website to learn more about the link between dementia and pain.

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