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Central nervous system
Central nervous system


Dementia due to metabolic causes is a loss of mental function that can occur with diabetes, thyroid disease, and other metabolic disorders.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

How often this condition affects different ages, genders, and races varies based on the disorder that is causing the dementia.

Metabolic causes of dementia include:


Dementia that occurs with metabolic disorders may cause confusion and changes in intellect or reasoning. These changes may be temporary or permanent.

  • Decrease in:
    • Feeling (sensation)
    • Hearing
    • Movement
    • Speech
    • Vision
  • Difficulty making sense of person, place, or time
  • Language difficulties
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Personality changes
  • Slowly worsening loss of:
    • Intellectual function
    • Judgment
    • Memory
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 may include:


Treatment focuses on the cause of the disorder and on controlling symptoms. Treatment of the cause may include:

  • Dietary supplements
  • Medicines

As the symptoms get worse, the person may need 24-hour monitoring and care in the home or in a care facility.

Long-term care may include:

  • Controlling aggression or agitation with behavior modification or medication
  • Safety measures to protect the person from injury

Support Groups:

Expectations (prognosis):

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

  • Brain injury that is not reversible
  • Complications from the condition that is causing the dementia
  • Inability to function or care for self
  • Inability to interact with others
  • Increased infections anywhere in the body
  • Side effects of medications used to treat the disorder

Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of dementia.

Call for an appointment if your symptoms get worse or continue, even with treatment for the metabolic cause, or if you have new symptoms.

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.


Farlow MR, Cummings JL. Effective pharmacologic management of Alzheimer's disease. Am J Med. 2007;120:388-397.

Goetz CG, ed. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders;2007.

Review Date: 2/13/2008
Reviewed By: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Departments of Anatomy & Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., 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. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. 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.

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