Dementia due to metabolic causesChronic brain - metabolic; Mild cognitive - metabolic; MCI - metabolic
Dementia is loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases.
Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. It affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior.
Dementia due to metabolic causes is a loss of brain function that can occur with abnormal chemical processes in the body. If treated early, brain function can return to normal. Left untreated, permanent brain damage, such as dementia, can occur.
Metabolism refers to all the physical and chemical processes in the body that convert or use energy, such as:BreathingCirculating bloodControlling bo...
Possible metabolic causes of dementia include:
- Hormonal disorders, such as Addison disease, Cushing disease
Addison disease is a disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones.
- 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
- High level of calcium in the blood, such as due to hyperparathyroidism
Low level of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) or high level of thyroid hormone (thyrotoxicosis) in the body
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. This condition is often called underactive thyroid....
- Liver cirrhosis
- Kidney failure
- Nutritional disorders, such as vitamin B1 deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, pellagra, or protein-calorie malnutrition
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water. After the body uses these vitamins, leftover amounts leave the bo...
Pellagra is a disease that occurs when a person does not get enough niacin (one of the B complex vitamins) or tryptophan (an amino acid).
- Poisons, such as methanol
- Severe alcohol use
- Wilson disease
- Disorders of the mitochondria (energy-producing parts of cells)
- Rapid changes in sodium level
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.
Confusion is the inability to think as clearly or quickly as you normally do. You may feel disoriented and have difficulty paying attention, remembe...
The early symptoms of dementia can include:
- Difficulty with tasks that take some thought but 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 trouble with names of familiar objects
- Losing interest in things previously enjoyed, flat mood
- Misplacing items
- Personality changes and loss of social skills, which can lead to inappropriate behaviors
As the dementia gets 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
- More difficulty reading or writing
- 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
The person may also have symptoms from the disorder that caused dementia.
Exams and Tests
Depending on the cause, a nervous system (neurologic examination) is done to identify the problems.
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
BUN stands for blood urea nitrogen. Urea nitrogen is what forms when protein breaks down. A test can be done to measure the amount of urea nitrogen ...
- Liver function tests
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
- Nutritional assessment
- Thyroid function tests
- Vitamin B12 level
An electroencephalogram is a test to measure the electrical activity of the brain.
Head CT scan
A head computed tomography (CT) scan uses many x-rays to create pictures of the head, including the skull, brain, eye sockets, and sinuses.
Head MRI scan
A head MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is an imaging test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the brain and surrounding...
The aim of treatment is to manage the disorder and control symptoms. With some metabolic disorders, treatment may stop or even reverse the dementia symptoms.
Medicines 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 fail to control the underlying problems.
Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. Alzheimer disease is one form of dementia. It affects memory, thinking, and...
Plans should also be made for home care for people with dementia.
Outcome varies, depending on the cause of the dementia and the amount of damage to the brain.
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
Pneumonia is a breathing (respiratory) condition in which there is an infection of the lung. This article covers community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). ...
- Pressure sores
- Symptoms of the underlying problem (such as loss of sensation due to a nerve injury from vitamin B12 deficiency)
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call for an appointment with your health care provider 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 underlying cause may reduce the risk for metabolic dementia.
Budson AE, Solomon PR. Other disorders that cause memory loss or dementia. In: Budson AE, ed. Memory Loss, Alzheimer Disease, and Dementia. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 14.
Douglas VC, Josephson SA. Dementia and systemic disease. In: Aminoff MJ, Josephson SA, eds. Aminoff's Neurology and General Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2014:chap 61.
Knopman DS. Alzheimer disease and other dementias. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 402.
Peterson R, Graff-Radford J. Alzeimer disease and other dementias. In: Daradoff RB, Jankovc J, Mazzotta JC, Pomeroy SL, eds. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 95.
Central nervous system - illustration
The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system includes all peripheral nerves.
Central nervous system
Review Date: 2/27/2016
Reviewed By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.