What is Organic Brain Syndrome?
Organic brain syndrome is also called a neurocognitive disorder. It is a general term that describes many acute and chronic mental conditions (like Alzheimer’s disease) resulting mainly from physical changes in the structure of the brain. The major characteristics of organic brain syndrome are impaired mental function or cognition.
Table of content
- Defining neurocognitive disorders
- Symptoms of organic brain syndrome
- Causes of neurocognitive disorders
- Risk factors for neurocognitive disorders
- Diagnosing neurocognitive disorders
- Treatment for neurocognitive disorders
Defining neurocognitive disorders
Neurocognitive disorders are a group of conditions that frequently causes impairment of mental function. These conditions were formally described as organic brain syndrome. Currently, they’re referred to as neurocognitive disorders.
Neurocognitive disorders are common in older adults, but they can also affect young ones. The reduced mental function may include:
- Behavioral changes
- Problems with memory
- Difficulty performing daily activities
- Difficulty understanding language
The symptoms listed above may be triggered by a neurodegenerative condition, like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Neurodegenerative diseases cause a gradual deterioration of the nerves and the brain over time, resulting in a gradual loss of neural function. Organic brain syndrome may also be caused by substance abuse or brain trauma. Your doctor may determine the primary cause of your condition based on diagnostic tests and reported symptoms. The severity of your situation and the cause can help your doctor determine the best course of treatment.
Symptoms of organic brain syndrome
Symptoms of organic brain syndrome can vary depending on the underlying cause. If a neurodegenerative disease causes the condition, the affected person may experience:
- Memory loss
Other symptoms that are typical of neurocognitive disorders include:
- Short-term memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Headaches, mainly in those with traumatic brain injury or concussion
- Vision changes
- Difficulty balancing and walking
- Trouble carrying out routine tasks
Causes of neurocognitive disorders
A neurodegenerative disease usually causes neurocognitive disorders. The neurodegenerative disease can cause the development of conditions such as:
- Huntington’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Prion disease
In people under 60, neurocognitive disorders may occur mostly after an infection or injury. Conditions that may cause neurocognitive disorders to include:
- Blood clots
- Traumatic brain injury that results in bleeding in the brain and around it
- Vitamin deficiency
- Alcohol or drug abuse
Risk factors for neurocognitive disorders
Your daily and lifestyle habits play a significant role in determining your risk of developing neurocognitive disorders. For example, working in a heavy metal industry can increase your risk for neurocognitive disorders. Mercury, lead, and other heavy metals can damage your nervous system over time. So, exposing yourself to these metals daily can increase your risk for decreased mental function.
Other risk factors include:
- Being over the age of 60
- Having a cardiovascular disease
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Playing sports with a high risk of trauma to the head. Examples include rugby and football.
Diagnosing neurocognitive disorders
Diagnostic tests include:
- Positron emission tomography scan
- Head MRI scan
- Cranial CT scan
Treatment for neurocognitive disorders
The treatment depends on the underlying cause. Some conditions may require just medication and rest. For example, neurodegenerative diseases may require different kinds of therapy.
- Bed rest to allow the injury to heal
- Occupational therapy to help improve everyday skills
- Pain medications to relieve headaches
- Surgery for repairs of severe brain damage
- Antibiotics to clear infections that affect the brain
- Physical therapy to improve coordination, strength, flexibility, and balance
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.