Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Mental retardation is defined by three things. First, the person must have had the condition since childhood, or age 18 years or younger. Second, the person has a score of 70 or less on intelligence tests, or IQ tests. Third, the person has limitations in at least two aspects of living skills, such as:
What is going on in the body?
People with mental retardation have reduced intellectual function. Sometimes it is because the brain has not formed properly. Or the brain is damaged after the child is born.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Mental retardation can be caused by a many factors, both before and after the child is born. More than 500 genetic disorders can cause mental retardation. Three are listed here:
The following pregnancy-related problems in the mother can also cause mental retardation in the baby:
Birth-related stresses may cause brain injury and result in mental retardation. Premature birth and low birth weight are often associated with mental retardation. Birth trauma and lack of oxygen may cause brain damage.
Childhood infections, toxins, and accidents can also cause mental retardation. These include the following:
Factors related to poverty and cultural deprivation may also lead to mental retardation:
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
The following are some of the signs of mental retardation:
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the condition diagnosed?
Diagnosis of mental retardation begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare provider may order the following additional tests:
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the condition?
Mental retardation caused by genetic factors often cannot be prevented. Early screening for PKU can identify infants who are at risk. The baby’s diet can then be tailored to prevent mental retardation. Some couples may consider genetic counseling if there is a family history of genetic disorders.
Mental retardation can sometimes be prevented by proper prenatal care.
Mental retardation from factors during childhood can be reduced with the following measures.
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Long-term effects vary, depending on the degree of retardation. They may include:
What are the risks to others?
Mental retardation is not contagious. It poses no risk to others.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the condition?
Treatments for mental retardation may include:
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Most treatments for mental retardation are free from side effects. Medications may have specific side effects.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
Many people with mental retardation live happy, productive lives. They share loving relationships with friends and family and can make significant contributions to society. A mentally retarded person can receive special education services until the age of 21. Vocational services are available in sheltered workshop settings. Families are urged to do long-term planning for the time when the parents are no longer able to care for the person.
How is the condition monitored?
A person with mental retardation will have regular visits with the healthcare provider. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the provider.
Article type: xmedgeneral