Q:

What is cognitive impairment?

A:

Quick Answer

Cognitive impairment refers to difficulties in remembering, learning new things, concentrating or making personal decisions that negatively affect everyday life. It is an inclusive term that describes any characteristic inhibiting cognition, or the thought process.

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Full Answer

Cognitive impairment, also known as cognitive deficit, may refer to inadequacies in global intellectual performance, including mental retardation, or certain deficits in cognitive abilities, such as learning disorders and dyslexia. It may also describe drug-induced memory impairment, including that experienced with alcohol, glucocorticoids and the benzodiazepines.

Cognitive deficit occurs with problems in thought processes, including loss of higher reasoning, learning disabilities, forgetfulness, concentration problems, decreased intelligence and other declines in mental functions. It may occur at birth or at any point in a person’s life. Some degree of impairment or loss of brain function may occur with aging. Causes of cognitive impairment include side effects of cancer therapy; heavy mental poisoning; malnutrition; autism, which is characterized by abnormal development of social and communication skills; systemic lupus erythematosus, a condition in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues; and metabolic conditions. Causes of cognitive impairment later in life include stroke, delirium, dementia, brain tumors, some vitamin deficiencies, chronic alcohol abuse, substance abuse and chronic diseases. Head injury and brain infection may also cause cognitive impairment.

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