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Chronic Pain Tied to Increased Risk of Memory Loss

Findings in patients 60 and older with moderate or severe chronic pain

woman in pain

WEDNESDAY, June 7, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Chronic pain is associated with increased odds of mental decline and dementia, according to research published online June 5 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Elizabeth Whitlock, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues assessed information on 10,065 people, all of whom were aged 60 years and older.

The investigators found that those who had moderate or severe chronic pain in both 1998 and 2000 had a 9.2 percent faster decline on memory tests over the next 10 years than those who didn't have pain (95 percent confidence interval, 2.8 to 5.0 percent). The decrease in memory would likely be enough to affect people's ability to do things such as manage their finances or keep track of their medications, the researchers said. Patients with chronic pain also exhibited a 7.7 percent faster rate of developing dementia (95 percent confidence interval, 0.55 to 14.2 percent).

"Elderly people need to maintain their cognition to stay independent," Whitlock said in a university news release. "Up to one in three older people suffer from chronic pain, so understanding the relationship between pain and cognitive decline is an important first step toward finding ways to help this population."

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