Researchers find link between autoimmune diseases and heightened risk of dementia

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

A link has been found between autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and coeliac disease, and an increased risk of dementia, according to a new study.

The study, completed by researchers from the University of Oxford, analysed data of people admitted to hospitals in England for autoimmune diseases between 1998 and 2012 who were later admitted with dementia. 81,502 of the 1.8m people admitted for an autoimmune disease, later received a diagnosis of dementia.

In comparing this to data from a group of seven million people who were admitted to hospital over the same period for other causes, researchers discovered that those with an autoimmune disease were 20 per cent more likely to subsequently be admitted with dementia.

Dr Clare Walton, research manager at Alzheimer’s Society, made a few comments on the data, saying that the new findings reinforced earlier evidence that the immune system plays an important role in dementia, which can help to find effective treatments.

25 autoimmune diseases were covered in the study and 18 were found to have a significant association with dementia.

Dr Rosa Sancho, head of research and Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:-

 “We are becoming increasingly aware of the important role the immune system plays in dementia, and this new study provides evidence to support this link.”

“As this study is observational and based only on hospital admission records, we cannot draw firm conclusions from its findings, but it supports ongoing work into the contribution of the immune system to dementia.

“There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and there are as yet no treatments that can slow or stop damage to the brain in diseases like Alzheimer’s.

“Targeting immune and inflammatory responses is a promising approach for researchers working on new dementia treatments. Alzheimer’s Research UK is supporting projects that are designing new drugs that target different aspects of inflammation as a way to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.”

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