The Causes of Mental RetardationCreated by:
Mental retardation can occur in any family, in any race, and at any educational or income level. In most cases the mentally retarded person is physically sound, and there is no apparent damage to brain tissue. The causes of retardation stem from problems before, during, or after birth. Retardation can result before birth if the mother has poor nutrition, is an alcoholic or drug abuser, or has illness, such as syphillis and rubella during birth, retardation can be caused by various complications in delivery that decrease the oxygen supply to the brain, resulting in permanent brain damage. After birth, a child's mental growth can be damaged by poor childhood nutrition, illness, lack of mental stimulation, and physical abuse or injury. Many of these causes of retardation are preventable.
Some inherited disorders in body chemistry can cause mental retardation. Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an inherited disorder. If PKU is not detected, it will cause retardation. Infants are routinely screened at birth for PKU disorder and immediately placed on a special diet which prevents retardation. Genetic disorders causing retardation are not all inherited. A type of retardation, known as Down's syndrome, is caused by a chromosome abnormality. It is not known why the genetic defect occurs, but it may be directly related to the age of the mother. Persons with Down's syndrome are moderately to severely retarded. Such retardation can also affect their physical characteristics. Mental retardation can be determined only after a careful examination by qualified professional. A child's physical and social development and the result of standardized intelligence tests are evaluated. Then diagnosis of the extent of retardation is made. Early diagnosis is important in helping retarded persons achieve full productive lives.