Cerebral Atrophy (CA) is a highly acute brain condition that affects many individuals across the world. Know more about this condition along with its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
What is Cerebral Atrophy?
It is a severe condition that causes loss of cells located in the brain. It is also known as Brain Atrophy.
Cerebral Atrophy Types
The condition is categorized into two types:
In Focal Cerebral Atrophy, the condition is restricted to a localized area of the brain. In this type, the damage of brain cells is limited to a particular region of the brain. Only one specific brain region is affected in this type, unless the more complex Generalized Atrophy.
Also known as Generalized, Complete or Total Cerebral Atrophy, this type of CA is marked by shrinkage of the brain size. As the name indicates, the loss of cells is not restricted to a particular region but the whole brain. The damage, which can result due to myriad problems, affects the entire brain. If CA affects the right and left cerebral hemispheres of the brain, the voluntary functions and conscious thought process can be impaired.
Cerebral Atrophy Symptoms
This brain disease, much like other atrophies, involves loss of tissue. This can result in various neurological and cognitive problems, such as:
It is characterized by gradual worsening of intellectual capabilities, such as judgment, concentration and memory. However, a severe loss of cognitive ability is the main problem arising from this condition. In some cases, it is accompanied by personality changes and emotional disturbance.
CA can also give rise to seizures – a muscular spasm, convulsion or sudden attack in a patient.
Aphasia is another of the symptoms of CA. It is a disease characterized by difficulty in understanding or producing spoken or written language.
In Focal CA, the damage is concentrated on a specific brain region thus causing impairment of functions in that area. Generalized CA damages and impairs functions of the cells of the whole brain.
Cerebral Atrophy Causes
With increasing age, the brain of humans tends to reduce in size (shrink). In Brain Atrophy, however, it reduces more than it normally does with increasing age. This can lead to severe consequences, which can range from mild to severe in intensity. Mild CA does not usually cause any serious problems. Moderate to severe types of Cerebral Atrophy can be noticed in patients of Alzheimer’s disease and other similar chronic neurological disorders.
Many diseases can act as causes of Cerebral Atrophy. These include:
It is caused when a blood vessel suffers from an occlusion or rupture, thereby causing lack of oxygen in the brain. It results in a sudden loss of consciousness in CA patients.
It is a progressive type of Presenile dementia that often afflicts middle-aged and elderly women. It is characterized by progressive death of nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes, which leads to short-lived Aphasia and loss of intellectual faculty.
Lesions originating in the brain can affect motor coordination and give rise to Brain atrophy.
It is caused by permanent brain damage which is present at birth. It leads to a deficiency or loss of motor control along with involuntary muscular spasms, which may result in Brain Atrophy.
It is a chronic progressive neurological disease that causes loss of myelin sheath surrounding some nerve fibers.
It is a disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS) and causes seizures, convulsions and loss of consciousness. It mainly results from abnormal release of electrochemicals caused by lesions in the brain.
It is a hereditary disease that originates in adulthood and results in dementia.
Severe trauma (injury) to the brain can also be responsible for Brain Atrophy in some cases.
Certain genetic conditions increase the amount of proteins to toxic levels inside brain cells. These disorders can also be likely causes for the rise of CA.
Cachexia refers to Chronic Wasting or a general depletion in strength and vitality of mind and body, caused by a debilitating chronic disorder. Brain atrophy has been observed in some patients with Cachexia, especially those suffering from AIDS.
Cerebral Atrophy Diagnosis
This condition is usually detected with the help of neuroimaging techniques, such as
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan
- Computer Tomography (CT) Scan
- Positron emission tomography (PET) Scan
- Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)
Cerebral Atrophy Differential Diagnosis
The differential diagnosis of this disorder is based on the imaging appearance of the brain and aims at distinguishing between Hereditary CA, Unilateral CA and postnatal acquired CA.
Cerebral Atrophy Treatment
The treatment of the disease is typically based on the symptoms as well as the underlying causative condition. Drug therapy is capable of producing effective results. Therapy should be followed up with proper care that helps maintain and stimulate patients with Brain Atrophy.
Symptomatic treatment is quite capable of improving the condition of CA patients. Dementia, arising from CA, cannot be cured but can be prevented from worsening with the help of medicines. Seizures are generally treated with anti-seizure drugs. In CA patients suffering from Aphasia, a speech-language pathologist can usually produce effective results. Pathologists help patient follow directions as well as relearn how to repeat phrases and read or write.
Cerebral Atrophy Prognosis
If the entire brain is involved, this condition can give rise to fatal consequences. But if only a specific part of the brain is affected, no fatalities are usually involved. However, Focal CA can still cause problems like impairment of the normal functioning of the brain. The outcome for this disease actually varies from person to person. In the advanced stages, brain atrophy can even lead to complete Dementia.
Cerebral Atrophy Prevention
There is no specific way to prevent this condition. Prevention mainly involves following some general measures to avoid diabetes, coronary artery disease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and stroke which act as risk factors for this disease. Some other preventive steps include:
Following a regular workout regimen can help minimize possibilities of getting CA as well as other disorders. Even brisk walking for some distance on a daily basis can be beneficial for health.
Minimizing vitamin deficiencies
Incorporating more and more vitamin-rich foods, particularly those containing folate and vitamin B12, can also be helpful.
Drinking enough water
Drink at least eight to ten glasses of water every day. Lack of water can cause dehydration, which increases stress hormone levels and leads to acute brain damage.
Consuming more Omega-3
A lack of Omega-3 fatty acid in the body can reduce intellectual performance and even cause Dementia. DHA, which is the main constituent of brain synapses, is present as Omega-3 in fishes as also other food products like pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and walnuts. You may also consider taking 1000 mg of Omega-3 supplements a day.
Consuming Vegetables and Fruits
Add fruits and vegetables such as blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, strawberries, spinach, raspberries, plums, broccoli, beets, oranges and red bell peppers which are rich in anti-oxidants. Five servings a day of fruits and vegetables is recommended.
Daily consumption of whole grains and starchy vegetables (rich sources of complex carbohydrates), green tea and eggs can also help you avoid this condition.
Diffuse Cerebral Atrophy
It is a type of dementia resulting from atrophy (destruction) of the frontal brain lobes. It causes progressive impairment of mental capabilities. This is an uncommon disease and affects only about 9 out of 10,000 individuals in the general population.
Age Related Cerebral Atrophy
This condition is characterized by cognitive impairment associated with increasing age and is typically noticed in middle-aged and elderly people. An MRI or CT scan of the brain can help diagnose an age-related CA.
Cerebral Atrophy and Alcohol
High alcohol consumption for a long time can cause severe brain damage in seemingly healthy people. Even mild or moderate drinking can affect cognitive functioning in an adverse manner. Prolonged alcohol intake can damage and even cause death of brain cells, thereby leading to shrinking of brain matter.
If you find dementia or any other signs of CA in any of your friends or family members, immediately get in touch with a doctor. Timely diagnosis and treatment can prevent worsening of the condition and control it in the very early stages.
Written by anirudh
on December 19th, 2011. The article was last updated on December 19th, 2011