What is cerebral atrophy?

Cerebral atrophy refers to the progressive loss of brain cells over time. Atrophy refers to a decreased size or wasting away of any part of the body. Cerebral atrophy can happen in either the entire brain or in just one part of the brain and can lead to decreased brain mass and loss of neurological function. The symptoms of cerebral atrophy depend on the cause and location of cell death.

Cerebral atrophy can occur due to brain injury, as in the case of stroke, or to a neurological disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy, or Huntington’s disease. Infections of the brain can also lead to the death of brain cells and cerebral atrophy.

Symptoms of cerebral atrophy include dementia, seizures, loss of motor control, and difficulty with speaking, comprehension or reading. Dementia, which is marked by memory loss and an inability to perform daily activities, may be mild or severe and may worsen with increasing atrophy. Seizures can range from absence seizures (sudden loss of responsiveness) to convulsive seizures.

Depending on the underlying cause, cerebral atrophy may progress very slowly or very rapidly. Cerebral atrophy is life threatening, and there is no known cure. Treatment for cerebral atrophy focuses on treating the symptoms and complications of the disease. In cases in which cerebral atrophy is due to an infection, treatment of the infection may stop the symptoms of atrophy from worsening.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms of cerebral atrophy, such as seizures or loss of consciousness.

Seek prompt medical care for any symptoms of cerebral atrophy that interfere with daily life, such as changes in responsiveness and difficulty with speaking, vision or movement.


What are the symptoms of cerebral atrophy?

Symptoms of cerebral atrophy can be generalized (affecting the whole brain) or localized (affecting only one part of the brain or one function). Generalized symptoms include symptoms of dementia, such as problems with memory or changes in personality. Localized symptoms include seizures and problems with speech, vision or movement.

Generalized symptoms of cerebral atrophy

... Read more about cerebral atrophysymptoms


What causes cerebral atrophy?

Cerebral atrophy can arise from many diseases of the brain, injury to the brain, or infection of the brain.

Injury causes of cerebral atrophy

Death of brain cells may occur as a result of injury to the brain including:

  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury

Diseases that may cause cerebral atrophy

Cerebral atrophy may... Read more about cerebral atrophycauses


How is cerebral atrophy treated?

There is no cure for cerebral atrophy. Once brain cells have been lost, the damage is permanent. Treatment for cerebral atrophy focuses on treating the symptoms and complications of cerebral atrophy.

Treatment for dementia and loss-of-function symptoms of cerebral atrophy

Treatments for dementia symptoms of cerebral atrophy include medications and nonmedication therapie... Read more about cerebral atrophytreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves