Advances in medicine have increased the number of elderly people year after year, explaining the increasing prevalence of dementia. The sooner the disease is diagnosed, the longer doctors are able to extend patients’ quality of life. Some research suggests that brain deterioration may be associated with changes in hair and nails.
In a 2015 report titled Skin Lesions: A Valuable Sign in the Diagnosis of Dementia Syndromes, experts raised the issue of skin lesions in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
They noted that cognitive decline was “often associated” with skin lesions due to neglected hygiene.
These skin manifestations usually include pressure sores, where the skin is injured by prolonged pressure on the skin.
Excoriation disorder (chronic skin picking), mycoses (caused by fungal infection), and post-traumatic wounds due to gait disturbance were also associated with brain deterioration.
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Elsewhere in the report, the authors noted: “In Alzheimer’s disease, lesions occur in the hair and nails. […]†
†[…] It seems that the skin manifestations associated with dementia syndromes may be a valuable sign in the course of diagnosis.
“In those patients suddenly associated with vascular lesions by dementia, cutaneous manifestations in the form of livedo reticularis are often observed, which is an important diagnostic criterion.”
These physiological changes could be the result of other shifts in the body’s chemical makeup, it was suggested.
The authors added: “Studies show an association between a reduction in mercury levels and the duration and severity of dementia.
“Changes in the concentration of micronutrients in the nail plate are obsessed with the earliest stages of the disease.”
Interestingly, changes in the hair structure of patients with the disease are equally common.
“Studies of human hair show that 85 percent of patients with Alzheimer’s disease have abnormal hair structure,” the authors added.
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The research in question, published in JAMA Dermatology, found that 70 percent of hair samples from Alzheimer’s patients consisted of pseudo-pili torti.
Pili torti is medically defined as a hair shaft condition characterized by hair that does not grow long and breaks easily.
This often gives the hair a stiff or fluffy appearance.
In addition, researchers found evidence of trichorrhexia nodosa in 38 percent of the remaining hair samples.
In this condition, thickened or weak points along the hair shaft cause the hair to break easily.
The researchers concluded their report by noting that the need for an accurate and prompt diagnosis of dementia has never been more apparent.
“Coexistence of skin lesions detectable at an early stage appears to be significant in the diagnosis of” [dementia syndromes]they added.
“We should also be aware that many dermatological aspects are associated with the underlying disease, i.e. itching, iatrogenic lesions and skin lesions due to neglected hygiene.”