St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Dementia due to metabolic causes

    Dementia is a loss of brain function over weeks, months, or years that occurs with certain diseases. 

    Dementia due to metabolic causes is a loss of brain function that can occur with diabetes, thyroid disease, and other metabolic disorders. The term "metabolic" refers to the physical and chemical processes in the body.

    Causes

    Metabolic causes of dementia include:

    • Endocrine disorders, such as Addison's disease or Cushing's disease
    • Heavy metal exposure, such as to lead, arsenic, mercury, or manganese
    • Repeat episodes of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), most often seen in people with diabetes who use insulin
    • Hyperparathyroidism, which is very high levels of calcium in the blood
    • Hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone) or thyrotoxicosis (very high levels of thyroid hormone in the body)
    • Liver cirrhosis
    • Porphyria
    • Nutritional disorders, such as vitamin B1 deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, pellagra, or protein-calorie malnutrition

    Symptoms

    Dementia that occurs with metabolic disorders may cause confusion and changes in thinking or reasoning. These changes may be short-term or lasting. Dementia symptoms can be different for everyone. They depend on the health condition causing the dementia.

    The early symptoms of dementia can include:

    • Difficulty performing tasks that used to come easily, such as balancing a checkbook, playing games (such as bridge), and learning new information or routines
    • Getting lost on familiar routes
    • Language problems, such as having trouble finding the name of familiar objects
    • Losing interest in things you previously enjoyed, flat mood
    • Misplacing items
    • Personality changes and loss of social skills

    As the dementia get worse, symptoms are more obvious and interfere with the ability to take care of yourself:

    • Changing sleep patterns, often waking up at night
    • Forgetting details about current events, forgetting events in one's life history
    • Having difficulty doing basic tasks, such as preparing meals, choosing proper clothing, or driving
    • Having hallucinations, arguments, striking out, and behaving violently
    • Having more difficulty reading or writing
    • Using poor judgment and losing the ability to recognize danger
    • Using the wrong word, not pronouncing words correctly, speaking in confusing sentences
    • Withdrawing from social contact

    Note: The person may also have symptoms from the disorder that caused dementia.

    Exams and Tests

    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:

    • Ammonia level in the blood
    • Blood chemistry, electrolytes
    • Blood glucose level
    • BUN, creatinine to check kidney function
    • Liver function tests
    • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
    • Nutritional assessment
    • Thyroid function tests
    • Urinalysis
    • Vitamin B12 level

    To rule out certain brain disorders, a head CT scan or head MRI scan is usually done.

    Treatment

    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.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    The outcome varies depending on the cause of the dementia and the amount of damage to the brain.

    Possible Complications

    Complications may include the following:

    • Loss of ability to function or care for self
    • Loss of ability to interact
    • Pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and skin infections
    • Pressure sores
    • Symptoms of the underlying problem (such as loss of sensation due to a nerve injury in vitamin B12 deficiency)

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    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.

    Prevention

    Treating the metabolic disorder may reduce the risk of developing this type of dementia.

    References

    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.

    Metabolic Syndrome and Risk of Dementia in Older Adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2010; 58(3):487-492.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Central nervous system

      illustration

      • Central nervous system

        illustration

      A Closer Look

      Talking to your MD

        Self Care

          Tests for Dementia due to metabolic causes

          Review Date: 2/16/2012

          Reviewed By: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
          adam.com

          A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


          Back  |  Top
          About Us
          Contact Us
          History
          Mission
          Locations & Directions
          Quality Reports
          Annual Reports
          Honors & Awards
          Community Health Needs
          Assessment

          Newsroom
          Services
          Brain & Spine
          Cancer
          Heart
          Maternity
          Orthopedics
          Pulmonary
          Sleep Medicine
          Urgent Care
          Women's Services
          All Services
          Patients & Visitors
          Locations & Directions
          Find a Physician
          Tour St. Luke's
          Patient & Visitor Information
          Contact Us
          Payment Options
          Financial Assistance
          Send a Card
          Mammogram Appointments
          Health Tools
          My Personal Health
          mystlukes
          Spirit of Women
          Health Information & Tools
          Clinical Trials
          Health Risk Assessments
          Employer Programs -
          Passport to Wellness

          Classes & Events
          Classes & Events
          Spirit of Women
          Donate & Volunteer
          Giving Opportunities
          Volunteer
          Physicians & Employees
          For Physicians
          Remote Access
          Medical Residency Information
          Pharmacy Residency Information
          Physician CPOE Training
          Careers
          Careers
          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
          Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile