Is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) treatable?

Is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) treatable?

Is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) treatable?

Without any formal clinical diagnostic guidelines for CTE, there are no specific treatment recommendations in practice either. No living person is likely to be diagnosed with CTE at present. Nor is there any foreseeable possibility of a cure (for the time being anyway). A person may, however, feel that they have similar symptoms and seek medical consultation.

If symptoms that are of a similar nature to those which are currently known to be associated with CTE are identified by a medical professional, it is highly likely that a doctor will conduct diagnostic procedures for other probable or possible medical conditions known to cause comparable clinical presentations in an effort to rule certain conditions out or even make an official diagnosis.

Should a medical professional not be able to make a definite diagnosis, attributing signs and symptoms to another medical disease (which would have existing treatment guidelines), he or she is likely to implement supportive measures or targeted therapies in order to best manage a person’s condition – often according to the most bothersome symptoms being experienced. This can include recommended treatment options with appropriate prescription or over-the-counter medications (for instance to best manage headaches etc.), addressing relevant safety concerns (which could apply to patients showing signs of dementia) and even counselling. These types of treatment may include:

1. Providing support through a safe, secure and stimulating environment

If the safety of a person is a relevant concern, discussions around the most appropriate environment for a him or her may be helpful. Generally, those with dementia / dementia-like conditions fair better in environments that are bright (not dark and isolated from life), stable, safe (secure environments that also prohibit wandering, as well as implement systems that monitor such possibilities) and designed to help reinforce optimum orientation (i.e. placement of objects such as calendars and even clocks can help a person to have a better sense of time, for instance). Orientation can also be better managed by providing a person with a regular routine and a structured day. This can help with a better sense of stability and security too, which improves overall comfort and quality of life. Many individuals find certain types of change disruptive and distressing, and this can impact eating and sleeping habits in negative ways.

Regular scheduled activity is beneficial for encouraging a sense of independence and promotes better focus for problems with attention, motivation and even general enjoyment. Activities can be focussed on providing physical and mental stimulation. Breaking these down into simpler actions or shorter periods can be helpful when a person’s condition deteriorates further. Excessive stimulation in the environment may not be beneficial for a person. A doctor can advise some stimulation options (like audio – radio / music or visual – television) within the environment that may be useful and beneficial for a person.

2. Support through counselling and targeted therapies

Psychological counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an option for any patient that displays problems with mood, especially where clinical signs of depression are evident. Counselling sessions may be recommended periodically or frequently in order to assist a person in better managing or coping with their regular mood changes by providing guidance and support strategies. Where relevant and assessed as being potentially beneficial, mood-stabilising medications and antidepressants may be prescribed to help treat symptoms associated with mood problems.

If headaches are a consistent problem, a doctor will try and determine the type of most frequently experienced headache so as to offer the most effective means of treatment. Some individuals may benefit from medication use, while others may find that alternative means like massage, acupuncture or even craniosacral therapy (an alternative medicine practice that involves gentle manipulation of the skull) may provide some relief.

Other physical ailments and challenges which can also be improved with medication or other therapies, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy, will also be treated as is relevant to a particular patient’s needs.

What can someone with similar symptoms do for themselves?

A person living with a similar set of neurodegenerative symptoms as those thought to be characteristic of CTE, and who may not have been placed under treatment for another medical condition, can actively do certain things for themselves in order to better their quality of life. This can apply to possibly undiagnosed CTE or any other similar type of degenerative condition.

Factors to keep in mind can include things like:
  • Disciplined sleeping habits: Adequate sleep on a daily basis can curb problems with mental fogginess and even play a role in alleviating regular headaches and emotional imbalances.
  • Implementing a daily routine: Other than implementing disciplined sleeping habits, the same type of approach can be applied to other areas of daily function. Routine can provide structure in a person’s life and help with achieving a better sense of stability. That way a person can also learn to better manage requirements in a day without becoming overwhelmed, distressed or even anxious. Structure also promotes a routine of being able to accomplish one thing at a time.
  • Ensuring balanced nutrition: A well-balanced diet can help better regulate a person’s energy levels and thereby influence improving overall health and mood well-being as well.
  • Regular exercise: Known to help with alleviating stress, improving overall well-being, fitness and cardiovascular health, as well as helping to reduce problems with pain, regular exercise is a good thing all-round. Exercise also gives brain function an added boost. Before adopting any new exercise regimen, it is wise to consult a doctor so that the specific ailments or difficulties a person experiences due to their set of symptoms can be sufficiently addressed, and the most beneficial types of activity recommended. Activity that exacerbates or worsens a particular symptom is not ideal. A medical doctor may be able to recommend activities more likely to be beneficial, and the frequency they can be engaged in.
  • Gaining back a sense of control: Problems with memory can sometimes become distressing. It can promote negative emotions and make a person feel unable to lead a productive or even independent lifestyle. Writing things down can be helpful for some with memory trouble. Depending on a person’s preference, a calendar placed in a specific room may be helpful, as could making use of voice memos or even keeping a pen and notebook on hand (or close-by). If remembering specific times (or keeping track of time) is problematic, setting alarms (using a device that enables interpretation for what these alarms are for) can also be useful (if alarms cause a person further confusion, these do not need to be used). A person can find and make use of any mechanism that best works for alleviating short-term memory problems. Those with impulsive behaviour troubles and tendencies towards unhealthy indulgences may do better to keep well clear of things which could exacerbate the problem. If a person notes a desire to get involved in substance abuse (alcohol or drugs), overspending (excessive or unnecessary shopping, for instance) or even gambling, it is wise to find ways to deter unhealthy impulsive behaviours. Some may find counselling a useful tool in this regard if such impulses cannot be avoided on their own.
  • Practice self-regulation: Where it is possible to do so, a person may find that relaxation techniques can help to better manage bouts of emotion, stress or anxiety. Some techniques which can be used include basic deep breathing or meditation practice. If such difficulties cannot be successfully managed with self-regulation, a person can seek professional assistance from their treating physician.
  • Seek out support: Along with any form of professional support (including support groups), that which can be gained from close friends and family can also be highly beneficial. If confiding in loved ones helps and they are willing to provide support, this can help alleviate a sense of ‘feeling alone’. Some may benefit from seeking help from loved ones where certain tasks are difficult to perform or engage in – things a person may request some help with include driving a car, walking the dog or grocery shopping. Having a helping hand where it is needed from a friend or family member can alleviate any unnecessary stress where symptoms hamper daily function or capability.
PREVIOUS How is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) diagnosed?
NEXT How can Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) be prevented?