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What Causes CTE?

person with severe headache wondering what causes cte

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a complex, progressive disease that doctors are still trying to understand. However, the medical community has made progress in learning what causes CTE, how CTE and concussions are connected, and the ways in which a CTE treatment program can help people with brain injuries.

What is CTE? How is CTE Diagnosed?

CTE is a condition associated with traumatic brain injuries or repetitive blows to the head. These injuries include concussions, whether or not the concussions cause symptoms right after they happen.

Over time, CTE damages the brain’s nerve cells and may cause a person to have trouble with speech, balance, and memory. It can also lead to changes in personality and behavior.

Brains with CTE have built up excessive amounts of a protein called tau, the same protein associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Tau buildups cause other cells in the brain to malfunction.

Right now, doctors can only successfully diagnose CTE after death by studying a person’s brain during an autopsy. But they can also examine a living person with symptoms of CTE and rule out other diseases that might be causing their symptoms.

Who is at Risk for CTE?

The single most common factor in CTE cases is a history of repeated hits to the head. CTE is most often found in these groups of people, who are more likely to be exposed to traumatic head injuries:

  • Football players
  • Athletes in other high-contact sports like ice hockey and boxing
  • Military veterans who have served in combat zones

While these are major risk factors, not everyone who plays contact sports or serves in the military will develop CTE—even if they have repetitive head trauma. Scientists think genetics may play a role in what causes CTE, as well as the age of the person’s first injuries and the severity of their injuries.

Symptoms of CTE to Watch For

CTE symptoms often don’t develop for years or even decades after a period of repetitive brain injuries.

Some of the most frequent symptoms of CTE involve behavioral and mood changes, such as:

  • Problems with impulse control
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Memory loss and confusion
  • Poor judgment
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty walking and balancing

These signs can range from mild to severe, and not everyone who has CTE will have the same symptoms.

Especially in older people, some CTE symptoms resemble the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Brain imaging techniques have started to identify the difference between CTE and Alzheimer’s as scientists learn more about each condition.

The Connection Between CTE and Concussions

Concussions, or strong blows to the head, are one factor in what causes CTE. Symptoms of concussions range from dizziness, headaches, and fatigue to nausea, vomiting, and sometimes loss of consciousness.

However, one or two concussions by themselves won’t cause CTE. According to CTE research, what causes CTE is a repeated pattern of concussions over the course of many years. Many CTE sufferers have had hundreds or even thousands of blows to the head.

Still, one important aspect of CTE prevention is reducing the likelihood of even mild concussions—and preventing any more injury after a concussion.

Groundbreaking Treatment for CTE at Springfield Wellness Center

As doctors and scientists discover more about CTE, they’re learning how to identify symptoms of CTE in living patients. Springfield Wellness Center is proud to offer BR+NAD treatment for CTE and other neurodegenerative diseases. NAD+ is a coenzyme important to brain health, and valuable in wellness treatment. Our clinic was among the first to use this treatment method.

If you or someone you love is struggling with symptoms that may be CTE, the best thing you can do is get help early. Learn more by contacting us at 844.334.4727 or online.