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  • Karla Trippe

Can Autoimmune Diseases Cause Alzheimer’s?


Every morning I cruise through the different news feeds to see if anything of interest has broken other than sad news about Ukraine and the ridiculousness of anything Trumpian.


This week an Alzheimer’s story grabbed my attention and I wanted to share it with you. A British study released on March 1 announced that research had shown that people with autoimmune diseases -- conditions that cause a person's immune system to turn against the body -- appear to have an increased risk of developing dementia.


“Researchers found that 18 out of 25 different autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, psoriasis or multiple sclerosis, showed a statistically significant association with dementia," said study co-author Dr. Michael Goldacre. He's a professor of public health at the University of Oxford.


But Goldacre and other experts stressed that the study didn't prove that autoimmune diseases cause dementia. The research only showed that these conditions are associated with a higher risk of dementia.


I have long wondered why my mother got dementia which turned into full-on Alzheimer’s. She seemed to have none of the underlying conditions that my father, who also had dementia, had shown. My father’s sister developed Alzheimer’s and all of his sisters and brother had dementia as well.


But why had mother developed Alzheimer’s? I just couldn’t understand. My mother had never had an autoimmune disease but she carried the gene and passed it down to me. The autoimmune diseases only flare in the female line and often skip a generation. I have several autoimmune diseases including psoriasis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome. The study found that suffers of rheumatoid arthritis had a 13 percent increased risk of dementia. People with psoriasis was associated with a 29 percent increased risk of dementia. This illness come from my father’s genes. I have prepared for the potential onslaught of dementia and Alzheimer’s as advised by my neurologist. This was recommended to me prior to this most recent research.


I strongly believe that studies like Dr. Goldacre’s are significant for developing medications to help combat this disease. Having watched a beloved aunt and mother die from Alzheimer’s anything we can do to find a cause and cure to this wretched illness are significant. I also recommend that people with a high genetic risk make plans for care that will not burden their families. Alzheimer’s is often hard to detect until it fully manifests and by that time legal decisions often can’t be made.


Keep following this blog as I regularly report on Alzheimer related data and end-of-life care. And please give to the Alzheimer’s Association. Our government has cut much of the researching funding so donations by individuals are critical.

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