Dementia is loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases.
Dementia due to metabolic causes is a loss of brain function that can occur with abnormal chemical processes in the body. If these processes can be treated soon enough, brain function can return to normal. Left untreated, these chemical abnormalities cause permanent brain damage and dementia.
Metabolic causes of dementia include:
Metabolic disorders may cause confusion and changes in thinking or reasoning. These changes may be short-term or lasting. Dementia occurs when the symptoms are not reversible. Symptoms can be different for everyone. They depend on the health condition causing the dementia.
The early symptoms of dementia can include:
As the dementia gets worse, symptoms are more obvious and interfere with the ability to take care of yourself:
The person may also have symptoms from the disorder that caused dementia.
An examination of the nervous system (neurologic examination) can show different problems, depending on the cause.
Tests to diagnose a medical condition causing the dementia may include:
Treatment focuses on managing the disorder and controlling symptoms. With some metabolic disorders, treatment may stop or even reverse the dementia symptoms.
Medications used to treat Alzheimer disease have not been shown to work for this type of dementia. Sometimes these drugs are used anyway, when other treatments are unable to control the underlying problems.
Plans should also be made for home care for a loved one with dementia.
Outcome varies, depending on the cause of the dementia and the amount of damage to the brain.
Complications may include the following:
Call for an appointment if symptoms get worse or continue. Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if there is a sudden change in mental status or a life-threatening emergency.
Treating the metabolic disorder may reduce the risk of developing this type of dementia.
Apostolova LG, DeKosky ST, Cummings JL. The dementias. In: Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 66.
Updated by: Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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