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Dementia due to metabolic causes

  • Symptoms

    Dementia that occurs with metabolic disorders may cause confusion and changes in thinking or reasoning. These changes may be short-term or lasting.

    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 becomes 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.


    Signs 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.