What causes mental retardation?

There are many different possible causes of mental retardation; in many cases the cause is unknown. In some cases, the condition is caused by a genetic condition or birth defect. Genetic conditions occur as a result of abnormalities within the structure or make-up of the cell; for example, the cell may have too many or too few chromosomes. Birth defects may be a result of inherited conditions, which are passed on by the parents or as a result of things which happen during the pregnancy; for example, defects can be caused by smoking and drinking during pregnancy, taking drugs during pregnancy or being exposed to harmful chemicals during pregnancy. Infections, including toxoplasmosis and Rubella (German measles) can also contribute to birth defects.

In addition, mental retardation may be caused by problems which affect the development of the brain such as a shortage of oxygen during childbirth (for the baby), an infection which develops in the brain after birth and premature birth.

Mental retardation which develops during adulthood is usually caused by an accident or injury, which affects the brain; this is commonly known as brain damage. Head injuries are the most common form of mental retardation caused by accidents; it is important to wear protective headgear if you are cycling, using a motorbike or taking part in a dangerous sporting or leisure activity to reduce the risk of injury.

Mental Retardation

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