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.
Metabolic causes of dementia include:
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:
As the dementia get 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:
To rule out certain brain disorders, a head CT scan or head MRI scan is usually done.
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.
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.