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Mental Retardation : Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Mental retardation is a brain development disorder characterized by IQ scores below the average normal person and the ability to do bad everyday skills. Mental retardation is also known as an intellectual disorder.

The occurrence of a disturbance in the condition or development of the brain is the cause of someone suffering from mental retardation. It takes time and involvement of many parties to help retarded patients mentally adapt to their conditions.

Causes of Mental Retardation

Mental retardation is caused by a disorder of the brain that can occur due to several factors, including:

  • Injury, for example, due to a traffic accident or while exercising.
  • Genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome and hypothyroidism.
  • Suffering from diseases that affect brain function, such as infections in the brain (such as meningitis) or brain tumors.
  • Disorders during pregnancy, such as lack of nutrition during pregnancy, infection, drug use, or preeclampsia.
  • Disorders during childbirth, such as lack of oxygen or premature birth.

In certain cases, the cause of mental retardation is not known exactly.

Symptoms of Mental Retardation

People who experience mental retardation can learn new skills, but they learn them they need more time. Someone is said to be mental retardation, if it has limitations in two fields, namely:

  • Intellectual function. Also known as IQ, this refers to a person's ability to learn, reason, make decisions, and solve problems.
  • Adaptive behavior. This is a skill that is needed to live everyday life, such as being able to communicate effectively, interact with others, and take care of yourself.

Symptoms of mental retardation in each patient can vary depending on the severity of the condition experienced. Symptoms that can arise in patients with mental retardation, in the form of:

  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Slow in learning important things, like dressing and eating.
  • Difficulties in controlling emotions, such as irritability.
  • Inability to understand the consequences of actions taken.
  • Bad reasoning and difficult problem-solving.
  • Poor memory.

The patient's IQ score can also indicate the severity of the condition suffered. The following are the severity of conditions based on IQ values:

  • Mild - IQ scores around 50-69.
  • Moderate - IQ scores around 35-49.
  • Weight - IQ scores around 20-34.
  • Very heavy - IQ scores below 20.

Patients who are classified as very severe can show other symptoms, such as seizures, visual disturbances, impaired body motion control, or hearing loss. If symptoms of mental retardation appear, immediately see a doctor to get treatment.

Mental Retardation Diagnosis

In diagnosing, the doctor will examine the patient's condition thoroughly. The examination is carried out by interviewing patients and their parents, making direct observations, and carrying out a series of intelligence tests and the ability to adapt patients to the environment.

Someone who has mental retardation will show two main signs, namely poor adaptability and IQ scores below the average. However, the doctor can also continue the examination to detect the underlying causes.

Some of the tests used to carry out the follow-up examination include:

  • Blood test.
  • Urine test.
  • Scanning, such as CT scans and MRIs.
  • Examination of brain electrical activity or electroencephalography (EEG).

Mental Retardation Treatment

Pregnant women can take an ultrasound test or take amniotic water samples (amniocentesis), to detect the presence or absence of brain growth abnormalities or genetic abnormalities in the fetus. Although the condition can be detected, there is no treatment method that can improve brain growth abnormalities in the fetus.

Handling that can be done in patients with mental retardation is to provide special therapy in order to adapt and develop with his condition. The usual therapy is an individualized family service plan (IFSP) and the individualized education program (IEP). In this therapy, the doctor or therapist will train patients to control the symptoms experienced, such as difficulty speaking, also provide guidance to the family to assist patients in their daily activities.

In addition, parents can also help develop patients by making several efforts, such as:

  • Let the patient try new things, and tell him to do something independently.
  • Pay attention to the development of patients at school, and help them re-learn what they have learned in school.
  • Include patients in group activities or activities that require cooperation and interaction, such as scouts.
  • Finding out more about mental retardation, either through consulting a doctor or other parents who have the same problem.

Mental Retardation Prevention

The cause of mental retardation is a brain development disorder that occurs when a person is still in the womb. Pregnant women can minimize the risk of this condition in their fetus, by:

  • Don't smoke and avoid alcohol consumption.
  • Perform routine checks.
  • Take vitamins as needed.
  • Get vaccinated.

For mental retardation caused by an accidental head injury, you can prevent it by using appropriate personal protective equipment when doing activities, for example when working in the field, exercising or driving.



  1. Tomac, et al. (2017). Etiology and the Genetic Basis of Intellectual Disability in the 
    Pediatric Population.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018). Entertainment-Education. Mental Retardation.

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