Dementia is a loss of brain function over weeks, months, or years that occurs with certain diseases. It affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior. Similar changes that occur over hours or a day or two is called delirium or encephalopathy.
Metabolism refers to all the physical and chemical processes in the body. Dementia due to metabolic causes is a loss of brain function that can occur with diabetes, thyroid disease, and other metabolic disorders.
How often this condition affects different ages, genders, and races varies based on the disorder that is causing the dementia.
Metabolic causes of dementia include:
The early symptoms of dementia can include:
As the dementia becomes worse, symptoms are more obvious and interfere with the ability to take care of yourself:
Note: 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. Abnormal reflexes may be present.
Tests to diagnose a medical condition causing the dementia may include:
Treatment focuses on managing the disorder and controlling symptoms.
Medications used to treat Alzheimer's disease have not been shown to work for this type of dementia. However, sometimes these drugs are used anyway, when other treatments are unable to control the underlying problems.
See: Dementia - home care for information about taking care of a loved one with dementia.
The 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.
DeKosky ST, Kaufer DI, Hamilton RL, Wolk DA, Lopez OL. The dementias. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann; 2008:chap 70.
Brewer JB, Gabrieli JDE, Preston AR, Vaidya CJ, Rosen AC. Memory. In: Goetz CG, ed. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders;2007: chap 5.
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