Metabolic dementia: what is it and why does it occur?

Metabolic dementia, as its name suggests, is a type of dementia secondary to a metabolism disorder. The metabolism includes all the chemical and physical processes that take place in the body and that allow us to live.

It is defined as an impairment of cognitive functions. It affects thinking, memory, and social skills. So much so that it ends up interfering with daily activities and causes a person to progressively lose their independence.

Metabolic dementia can be caused by many diseases. For example, thyroid gland problems or diabetes. In this article we explain what its main causes are, how it can be treated and prevented.

What is metabolic dementia?

Metabolic dementia, as we have pointed out, is one that develops as a result of a metabolic disease. It is a particular type of dementia whose prevalence is very high, because some of its causes are very frequent disorders.

As explained by specialists from the Mayo Clinic, dementia as such comprises a group of symptoms that interfere with daily life. There is a progressive deterioration of the ability to think, to relate and to memorize.

The problem is that many metabolic disorders are almost asymptomatic and act as silent diseases. This is the case of diabetes. This makes the patient often tend to underestimate the seriousness of the situation.

These disorders are usually characterized by the dysregulation of certain substances in the body. When some accumulate or, on the contrary, are deficient, it is possible that damage is generated in many tissues. One of the most affected is the brain.

If we return to the example of diabetes, this damage can be due to both sustained high blood glucose levels and hypoglycemia. The uncontrolled concentration of glucose is decisive.

Main symptoms

Metabolic dementia, like most dementias, is usually progressive and insidious. Some people are not aware of the affectation. However, there may be moments of clarity in which they become aware.

Metabolic dementia can have early symptoms. They are those that warn of cognitive deterioration. For example, objects are frequently lost or day-to-day details are forgotten.

Many patients begin to have language problems and lose interest in things they used to enjoy. Little by little, a difficulty develops in performing daily tasks, such as cooking.

As metabolic dementia progresses, symptoms worsen. People lose their autonomy, since it is increasingly difficult for them to perform any task. Hallucinations, personality and mood changes may occur.

Many tend to think that only memory is affected in dementia. While it is true that these patients usually forget many memories and even close people, it is not the only thing that happens.

They can become violent people, with childish behaviors or that they refuse social contact. In advanced stages it is usually necessary for someone to take care of them and help them maintain their hygiene or eat.

The initial symptoms of dementia may be unnoticeable or missed in older people.

You may be interested: Early symptoms of dementia: how to detect them?

What Causes Metabolic Dementia?

Metabolic dementia is caused by many different disorders. We have talked about diabetes, whose most important relationship is frequent hypoglycemia. In the following sections we explain others.

Thyroid and parathyroid gland disorders

The thyroid is an endocrine gland found in the neck. It is one of the protagonists of metabolism. The hormones it secretes fulfill multiple functions, such as consuming calories or maintaining body temperature.

A study published in the Spanish Journal of Geriatrics and Gerontology explains that thyroid hormone disturbances can be the cause of metabolic dementia. Especially thyrotoxicosis.

On the other hand, the parathyroids are glands located very close to the thyroid. It is responsible for regulating calcium metabolism. Another study published in Medifam claims that hypoparathyroidism is one of the treatable causes of dementia. It is associated with very high levels of calcium in the blood.

Metabolic dementia due to nutritional disorders

Food is a fundamental pillar of health. It is common for elderly people, especially those with some pathology, to neglect their nutrition. This is why vitamin deficiencies can occur.

One of the most relevant associated with metabolic dementia is vitamin B1, called thiamine. It can also happen as a result of a B12 deficiency.

Endocrine disorders

One of the endocrine disorders that this disease can cause is Cushing's syndrome. It consists of an excess of cortisol, which is a hormone related to processes such as stress and glucose regulation, among others.

A study published in the Journal of Neurology explains that it is important to rule out this pathology in patients with rapidly progressing dementia. It is not considered a common cause, but it is important to be aware of it.

Porphyria and metabolic dementia

Porphyria refers to a series of disorders in which porphyrins accumulate. Porphyrins, in turn, are essential elements for hemoglobin. Thanks to it, oxygen is transported in the blood to nourish the tissues.

Nevertheless, the accumulation of porphyrins can be very harmful to the nervous system. Especially in cases where it occurs acutely. That is why it is associated with the development of metabolic dementia.

How is it diagnosed?

To diagnose any type of dementia, the first thing to do is pay attention to the symptoms. It is often necessary for family members or those closest to the patient to explain details they have observed.

Also, in the case of metabolic dementias, it is important to perform a series of tests to orient yourself. Many of them are done routinely. For example, blood or urine tests.

In a blood test, ask for thyroid hormone levels, as well as measure blood glucose and other liver markers. Similarly, electrolytes such as potassium and calcium are included. The patient may also be nutritionally evaluated.

In some cases, imaging tests may be necessary. The most used are computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. With them, certain structural alterations are observed at the brain level.

Blood tests can measure hormone and electrolyte levels to detect causes of dementia.

Treatments for metabolic dementia

Treatment of metabolic dementia is guided by the cause. However, in many cases the problem is already well advanced and there is no way to reverse the damage.

That is why it is essential to try an early diagnosis. When it comes to a nutritional problem, it can be reversed by administering the vitamin or substance that is in deficiency.

In the case of thyroid or parathyroid disorders, some drugs can help. For example, vitamin D, which reduces hypercalcemia. In diabetes, more than treatment, the prevention of hypoglycemia is essential.

It might interest you: Bilingualism protects against dementia according to study

Possible complications

Metabolic dementia, like any other dementia, ends up harming the sufferer. Autonomy is lost, so these people become unable to take care of themselves.

This makes them much more vulnerable to other pathologies, such as infections. What's more, they are usually patients who move less and less. Therefore, another of the typical complications are pressure ulcers. They occur when you are continuously in a position, such as lying down or sitting in the same place.

Some cases of metabolic dementia can be prevented

Metabolic dementia can be caused by many disorders. Nevertheless, many of them can be diagnosed and treated early. This prevents them from causing damage to the brain.

That is why it is essential to control the underlying disorder. Hence, it is advisable to visit the doctor frequently and follow his instructions. Thus, cases secondary to diabetes or nutritional deficits, among others, could be avoided.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *