Dementia Pugilistica is sometimes referred to as “punch-drunk dementia” or “boxer's dementia”. It is a form of dementia caused by repeated concussions or head trauma.
When you think about dementia, you probably think of it as a disease that only affects older people. But, there are different forms of dementia that can affect people of all ages and all walks of life.
Pugilistica Dementia is one of those types of dementia. Let’s take a look at what it is, its causes and symptoms and how to treat it.
What is Pugilistica Dementia?
Pugilistica Dementia is a form of dementia that is triggered by repeated blows to the head or by concussions. It is sometimes referred to as “punch-drunk dementia” or “boxer’s dementia”. It was originally discovered in boxers back in the 1920s. Its name is even derived from the Latin word for boxer or fighter, “pugil”. It may stay dormant for several years, but once it surfaces it affects the brain and body in ways similar to other forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
What Causes Pugilistica Dementia?
Since Pugilistica Dementia is triggered by blows to the head, those in contact sports, like boxing and football are typically the most susceptible. It’s believed that as many as 15 to 20 percent of all boxers who take blows to the head regularly will develop Pugilistica Dementia.
Other professional athletes who suffer multiple concussions are also at risk for developing Pugilistica Dementia. Although they may suffer a concussion they may not feel the effects of the dementia until several years later.
Head injuries and repetitive concussions are thought to scar brain tissue and damage the cerebellum. This can cause long-term damage to cerebral blood vessels. When this happens amyloid plaque builds up leading to Pugilistica Dementia.
Since the disease is associated with traumatic head injuries the main way to avoid it is to wear protective headgear if you are engaging in contact sports that present dangers to the head.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Pugilistica Dementia?
Although the direct cause is different than Alzheimer’s disease, many of the signs and symptoms are the same. This is mainly because the amyloid plaque buildup that causes Pugilistica Dementia is the same as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Short-term memory loss
- Progressively declining cognitive ability
- Loss of coordination
- Trouble speaking
- Impulsive behavior
- Unstable emotions
- Impulsive behavior
It can take as many as eight to ten years after the traumatic brain injury for those symptoms to start surfacing. If you start experiencing any of those symptoms call your doctor to get examined.
Typically a doctor will look at your balance, coordination, muscle tone strength, as well as your senses of hearing and sight. You will also likely need to undergo imaging tests such as an MRI or PET scan so that doctors can get a better picture of what’s going on inside the brain.
While these tests and other information gathered can lead a doctor to diagnose a patient with Pugilistica Dementia, a true diagnosis can only be confirmed through an autopsy. At that time the visible changes to the brain are truly noticeable.
Pugilistica Dementia Treatment
As with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, there is no cure. The best that can be done is to take medication in order to treat some of the symptoms associated with Pugilistica Dementia.
Doctors may prescribe medicines used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and even Parkinson’s disease. The Parkinson’s drugs can help to reduce the tremors Pugilistica Dementia may cause while the other drugs can be used to treat the other symptoms.
Once the onset begins, there is nothing that can truly be done to stop the disease’s progression. That is why professional athletes are urged to wear protective headgear to prevent head injuries. One of the frightening things about this type of dementia is that it doesn’t truly surface until many years after the first impact. People may be living with the condition and not even know it until nearly a decade later.
When a patient is diagnosed with Pugilistica Dementia they must also consider lifestyle changes that can help to deal with the illness. These include:
- Staying in a calm environment to avoid agitation that is associated with Pugilistica Dementia
- Get plenty of rest
- Maintain a schedule to avoid confusion
Find Pugilstica Dementia Care Near You
As with many other types of dementia, you may be able to care for a loved one when you begin to notice symptoms. But since the disease is unpredictable and doesn’t surface until years later, there is no telling how fast and furious the symptoms may develop.
As time goes on and the disease worsens, the patient may require 24-hour care that you cannot provide. In these cases, you may want to look into a memory care facility or skilled nursing facility. The type of care needed will depend on the patient’s individual condition.