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Cerebral Atrophy (Brain Atrophy): Learn about symptoms, causes and treatment

  • Posted on- Sep 02, 2015
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Brain atrophy, which is also known as cerebral atrophy, is a health related condition where the nerve cells or neurons are lost and the connection between them is damaged. This cerebral atrophy affects either one or both the hemispheres of the brain. In this brain disorder, like other atrophies, there is a considerable amount of wastage or loss of brain tissues. This wastage of brain cells (also called neurons), affects the proper functioning of the brain. Loss of neurons in the brain is a highly undesirable condition as it results in many cognitive and neurological problems. There are two types of atrophy of the brain - focal atrophy and total or generalized atrophy. In focal cerebral atrophy, the damage of brain cells is concentrated on a particular region of the brain. But in complete atrophy, the damage is done to the whole brain and this cause is associated with a myriad of problems.

Cerebral Atrophy Causes

Normally brain stem atrophy is caused due to aging. But in some cases, the wastage of brain cells can be triggered due to some illnesses, which may cause premature wastage or even speed up the process. Given below is a list of reasons why the cells in the body’s most important organ are lost.

  • Epilepsy, which is a neurological disorder that can result in seizures.
  • Kearns Sayre syndrome, a disease that causes weakness to the muscles due to mitochondrial encephalomyopathies, which is the changes that occur in the mitochondria of the cells. This syndrome tends to interfere with the proper functioning of the neurons.
  • A traumatic brain injury resulting in stroke.
  • Some infectious diseases like neurosyphilis, AIDS and encephalitis which can lead to the damage of the brain cells leading to brain shrinkage by destroying the neurons and their axons.
  • A condition called multiple sclerosis, where the cerebral tissue becomes inflamed and there is damage to the myelin (a protective cover on the nerve fibres) due to the growth of lesions.
  • Cerebral palsy, where there is impairment in the coordination of the motor neurons in the damaged areas caused due to lesions.
  • Krabbe disease, where the myelin sheath that protects the axons (also known as nerve fibres) is destroyed.
  • Certain genetic disorders like Huntington’s disease that leads to an increase in the toxic levels of proteins in the neurons.
  • Other causes of atrophy are Alzheimer’s disease and Pick’s disease.

Cerebral Atrophy Symptoms

In some patients chronic or persistent wastage of brain stem cells called cachexia is observed. Brain cell atrophy is very common in people who are suffering from AIDS. An individual who suffers from this brain related disease will show the following symptoms:
  • An illness, known as dementia, where the person suffers from a loss of memory and cognitive skills. The inability to learn, loss of memory and disorientation are some of the signs that an individual is a dementia patient.
  • A condition related to language disorders called aphasias, where the individual finds it difficult to understand language. There are two types of aphasias - expressive aphasias and receptive aphasias. In expressive aphasias, the individual may often use incomplete sentences, odd choices of words, misspell certain words and use disjointed clauses. Receptive aphasias leads to impaired and improper comprehension skills.
  • Another symptom of cerebral atrophy is seizures, which results in convulsions, repetitive movements of the limbs and loss of consciousness.

Treating Cerebral Atrophy

In order to detect the presence of this condition, the affected individual may have to undergo a multi resonance imaging (MRI) scan to check for any impairments in the brain. The treatment depends on the age of the affected individual and also on the type of cerebral atrophy. If this condition is caused due to alcoholism or drug abuse, it is advisable to restrict the intake of alcohol and drugs completely. The individual can also take brain food and vitamin supplements to ensure the proper functioning of the brain. And last but not the least, practice a healthy lifestyle to ward off any diseases.

Though there is no certain cure for brain cell degeneration, symptomatic treatment can be given to the patients suffering from this condition. Researchers have been carried out to find a cure for this disorder and treat it successfully.