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Organic Brain Disorder
March 2001

Q. My father-in-law was just diagnosed with organic brain disorder, I have never heard of this. Could you explain? He is 79 years old.

A. Organic brain syndrome refers to impaired brain function due to damage or deterioration of brain tissue. Many possible causes can be present in this condition, now more commonly called dementia. The form of dementia most commonly appearing in the news media is Alzheimer's disease, although tissue damage can occur from many other causes such as stroke, infection, trauma, multiple sclerosis, alcoholism, and others. The results can be mild or severe, and can affect memory, judgement, and personality. Estimates are that over 1 million Americans age 65 and over have severe enough impairment as to require constant supervision and care, and many more have lesser degrees of impairment that can still cause great concern for their safety and well-being.

Diagnosis is made by physical exam, laboratory tests, and often imaging studies of the brain such as an MRI. Attempts are made to find treatable causes of the impairment, but in many cases no treatable cause will be found. If this is the case, it can be a severe challenge to the family to find appropriate and affordable resources to help the affected person.




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