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Here’s What You Should Know About Brain Atrophy

 In Adult Day Care, Seniors care

Brain atrophy refers to when the number of connections between brain cells are lost or when brain cells themselves are lost. A loss in brain cells or the connections between them can lead to cognitive decline.

Some brain atrophy can happen naturally as we age. Below, we’re going to outline some important facts you should know about brain atrophy. We’ll discuss the types of brain atrophy, causes, symptoms, treatment options, and outlook.

Types of Brain Atrophy

Brain atrophy can be divided into generalized atrophy and focal atrophy.

Generalized atrophy occurs across the brain, whereas focal atrophy happens in a specific location.

Brain Atrophy Symptoms

Brain atrophy can cause several conditions and symptoms:

Aphasia

Aphasia is when damage to the brain causes loss of the ability to understand of express speech. Some types of aphasia can also affect reading and writing ability.

Aphasia can range from mild to severe impairment of communication.

Dementia

As brain function declines, symptoms of dementia may appear. These include

  • Memory loss
  • Mood issues
  • Language problems
  • Movement/coordination problems
  • Slowed thinking
  • Difficulty with routine activities

Seizures

Seizures occur when electric activity in the brain suddenly spikes.

There are two types: partial seizures (affect one side of the brain) and generalized seizures (affect both sides of the brain).

Symptoms of a seizure include

  • Muscle spasms
  • Behavioral changes
  • Frothing/drooling at the mouth
  • Convulsions
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Grunting

Depending on which side of the brain a seizure effects, symptoms may differ.

Brain Atrophy Causes

Brain atrophy can be caused by injury, such as traumatic brain injury. Stroke is another cause of brain atrophy.

Many chronic conditions and diseases can lead to brain atrophy as well, including

  • HIV
  • Encephalitis
  • Neurosyphilis
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Pick’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Mitochondrial encephalomyopathies

How is Brain Atrophy Diagnosed?

To diagnose brain atrophy, doctors start off by asking the patient about their symptoms — such as what they are, when they begin, and if something triggered them — as well as getting their full medical history.

After that, the doctor tests for various parts of brain function, such as memory or language.

If the doctor suspects brain atrophy, they may order an MRI or CT scan to identify where in the brain the atrophy is occurring, as well as its severity.

Treating Brain Atrophy

Brain atrophy treatments depend on its cause.

Disorders/Conditions

Most disorders and symptoms that cause brain atrophy don’t have a cure, unfortunately. Treatment involves keeping the symptoms to a minimum.

Most treatments will involve a mix of therapy and medication. The therapy can help restore a person’s brain function or at least help them cope with the symptoms.

Injury

Brain atrophy resulting from injury typically requires rehabilitation to help the brain tissue heal. This may involve physical therapy, speech therapy, or counseling.

Infection

Medications can combat brain atrophy caused by infection.

For bacterial infections, doctors prescribe antibiotics. Antiviral medications are used for viral infections.

As the medication works, it will fight the infection while also treating the symptoms.

Outlook

The outlook for brain atrophy differs depending on the cause of the damage as well as location and severity.

Mild cases of brain atrophy don’t usually cause many long-term consequences. However, brain atrophy caused by diseases or conditions can lead to worsening symptoms over time. To slow the symptoms, therapy and other treatments can be used.

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