To most, Dementia occurs only to old people or when one has head trauma, a disease or syndrome that leads to Dementia. Little is known of causes of Dementia in children. Before we get into causes of Dementia in children, it’s important to note that Dementia in its entity is not deemed a disease but a term describing a set of symptoms all caused by disorders that affect brain cell, like Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Dementia in children results from several factors like infections, poisoning and lack of some nutrients which are also associated with Dementia in people across any age. In children, unique disorders can cause Dementia. These include:
• Batten disease which is a fatal and a hereditary disorder involving the nervous system. Batten disease develops in childhood and its symptoms are linked to increased Lipopigments substances in the body’s tissues. Early symptoms are personality and behaviour changes, clumsiness, stumbling, or slow learning. Children affected may have mental impairment, progressive loss of motor skills and sight, and seizures. Children with the disease tend to develop Dementia, become blind and bedridden. This disease becomes fatal in late teens or twenties.
• Niemann-Pick Disease which is a group of hereditary disorders arising from particular genetic mutations and affect metabolism. Patients with this disease can neither metabolize cholesterol or lipids properly. This leads to excess cholesterol accumulation in the liver, spleen and in extreme cases, other lipids are also accumulated in excess in the brain. Its symptoms are Dementia, confusion, learning and memory problem. They normally occur to young school-age children but might also occur in teenage or early adulthood.
• Lafora Body Disease is a genetic but rare disease that causes rapidly Progressive Dementia, seizures and movement problems which begin in late childhood or early teenage. Children with this disease have microscopic structures known as Lafora in the brain, liver, muscles, and skin. Most children with the disease die within 2-10 years after showing symptoms.
• In pregnant mothers, insufficient folic acid (Vitamin B9) can lead to underdeveloped infant brain cells which can result in retardation of the infant or Dementia later in the child’s life.
There are also some disorders in children that can be symptoms of Dementia. These include Rasmussen’s Encephalitis, Mitochondrial Myopathies, Neurodegeneration with iron accumulation in the brain, Mucopolysaccharidosis III (Sanfilippo syndrome), and Leukodystrophies such as Schilder’s disease, Alexander disease, and Metachromatic Leukodystrophy.
Dementia is very broad and a child suffering from it requires specialized attention. If your child or relative has Dementia, educate yourself more on the condition at the National Institutes of Health- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
National Institutes of Health – National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke – Dementia: Hope Through Research – Dementias in Children