Cerebral Atrophy

What Is Cerebral Atrophy?

Atrophy is where your muscles or nerve tissues degenerate after some time. Atrophy can be classified into muscular atrophy and cerebral atrophy. 1

Cerebral atrophy is a condition in which your nerve cells shrink over time. This disease affects your brain by shrinking neurons and their connections. This disease can occur in limited parts of your brain or in the whole brain. As a result, your brain can not function properly as well as the mass in the brain is reduced.



Injury, diseases or infections in your brain can cause cerebral atrophy. They may damage your brain tissues leading to this condition. Cerebral atrophy can occur gradually over some time or quickly depending on its cause.


Several factors and conditions may cause cerebral atrophy. They include:


Many diseases can cause cerebral atrophy. These diseases can be hereditary or other growth disorders. They include:

Multiple sclerosis

This disease affects your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It occurs when an overactive immune system attacks and destroys myelin, which protects the nerve fiber. This exposes the nerves which become vulnerable to destruction or obstruction. When nerves are damaged or blocked, communication between your brain and other parts of your body is disrupted.

Although multiple sclerosis is caused by an autoimmune disease, several risk factors can elevate your chances of developing this condition. These risk factors include:

Multiple sclerosis can affect all ages but it’s prevalent in people who are 15-60 years of age. Women are more affected than men.

People from a family with multiple sclerosis are at a higher risk of developing this condition.

People with multiple sclerosis can have total or partial blindness, weakness and dizziness. It can cause serious complications such as depression, paralysis of your body especially the limbs as well as epilepsy.

Pick’s disease

Pick’s disease is a condition that causes the frontal and temporal lobe parts of your brain to decrease in size. This occurs when tau, a protein found in the nerves accumulates in the pick cells of your brain. As a result the accumulation of this protein leads to the collapse of your brain cells which decreases the size of your brain tissues.

The frontal and temporal lobes of your brain are responsible for everyday function such as oral communication, planning, emotions and movement. Once you have Pick’s disease, you experience sudden changes in the mood and memory loss. You can also have trouble speaking and comprehending speech. This disease also affects your social life by making it difficult for you to behave properly in a social setting.

Huntington’s disease

This is a hereditary condition that causes your brain cells to shrink. This disease can start early at age 20 years, which is known as juvenile Huntington’s disease. Although it begins early, it symptoms start later on when the infected person is 30 or 40 years.

This disease occurs due to mutation in one gene. A parent can pass to the child a copy of this mutated gene and there is a half chance of each child born to develop this disease.


Microbes can cause infections in your brain and damage its cells. These infections include:


This is a disease that causes your brain to swell or be inflamed. The swelling or inflammation of the bran may damage the nerves in the brain and cause bleeding in the brain.

People with a weak immune system are prone to this disease. Also infants, elderly and children at risk of developing encephalitis.

Viruses are responsible for encephalitis. You can get these viruses through direct contact with an infected person, eating contaminated foods or inhaling dirty air. Infections that affect children such as measles and mumps can also cause encephalitis.

Other causes of cerebral atrophy include

  • Syphilis
  • Stroke
  • Brain injury
  • Leukodystrophysies diseases which destroys myelin sheath that covers the nerve fibers
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Cerebal Atropathy Picture 1


Symptoms of cerebral atrophy depend on whether the disease affects the whole brain or particular parts of the brain. If cerebral atrophy affects your entire brain, it means that all the cells in the brain degenerate. You may experience symptoms every day or sometimes. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Patients with Cerebral atrophy have poor memory; they do not recall anything and forgets easily. Poor memory affects thinking, reading and writing. They may also experience fluctuating moods and changes in behavior which affects their social life.
  • If this disease affects particular parts of your brain cells, you may lose vision in both of your eyes. People with this condition have complained of having problems in creating or understanding speech. Most of them have difficult in coordinating and balancing. Others may become paralyzed in some certain parts of their body.


Imaging methods are commonly used to help the doctor understand your brain tissues and diagnose this disease. The following imaging methods can be used: Positron emission tomography (PET) Scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan and Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT).


Once your brain cells are damaged, there is no treatment to reverse it. Cure for cerebral atrophy aims at treating the symptoms of the underlying causes. These treatments include:

  • Anticonvulsive drugs to treat seizures
  • Your doctor may prescribe medications to treat medical conditions and infections that cause cerebral atrophy
  • Physical therapy can be used to help you exercise of your muscles to slow down their rate of degeneration.
  • Cognitive therapy is also effective in helping patients with this condition lead a normal life.
  • Those with speech problem can go through speech therapy to help them produce and understand speech.

When To Call Your Doctor

Cerebral atrophy can be serious if left untreated. Seek urgent medical attention if you have the following signs and symptoms:

  • You abruptly lose vision or pain in your eyes.
  • Your level of concentration changes suddenly, for example you become confused or you are not attentive.
  • You become a threat to yourself for example thinking of killing yourself.
  • You experience seizure.

Tips to Help

Although cerebral atrophy is not easily prevented, changing your lifestyle can help you lower this disease from advancing in your body and relieve its symptoms. You can embrace the following tips:

  • Eat a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Avoid stress
  • Exercise regularly to lower blood pressure.

Reference List

  1. Cerebral atrophy. Available at https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/brain-and-nerves/cerebral-atrophy–symptoms
  2. Cerebral atrophy. Available at https://my-ms.org/symptoms_atrophy.htm
  3. Multiple sclerosis. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/dxc-20131884
  4. Pick disease. Available at http://www.healthline.com/health/picks-disease#diagnosis4
  5. Huntington’s disease. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/huntingtons-disease/basics/causes/con-20030685
  6. Cerebral atrophy. Available at http://www.primehealthchannel.com/cerebral-atrophy.html

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