Diabetic encephalopathy is a malfunction of the brain that is due to diabetes. The complications of diabetic encephalopathy can include memory loss, dementia, coma, seizures, or even death. Encephalopathy is increasing being recognized as a complication of diabetes, particularly type-1.

Usually diabetic encephalopathy describes a poor coordination of the brain that affects the movement of limbs. The defects that are generally observed are lethargy, dementia, poor judgment, poor coordination of the limbs, and muscle twitching. It has also been known to decrease literacy and memory, as well as causing difficulties with concentration and perception.

There are various kinds of diabetic encephalopathy, but cerebrovascular disease (CBVD) is the most common. This is caused when the capillaries thicken and blood flow decreases. When there is not enough blood flow to the brain it has trouble processing information. Conditions which commonly occur as a result of CBVD are:

Stroke – A stroke occurs as a result of blood flow that is blocked by a blood clot. The symptoms of a stroke can be remembered with the word FAST, or Face-Arms-Speech-Time.

  • Face – The face may have fallen on one side, their mouth or eye may have drooped, or they are unable to smile.
  • Arms – The person having the stroke may not be able to raise both arms and keep them there due to weakness or numbness.
  • Speech – the person having the stroke may have slurred speech.
  • Time – It is time to call 911 if you see any of these symptoms.


Transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – TIA is often referred to as a ‘mini-stroke’; it is caused by lack of oxygen to the brain that results from a temporary lack in the blood supply. The symptoms of this are similar to a stroke, but they only last for a few minutes. People who have TIA have a one-in-five chance of suffering a full stroke.

Subarachnoid haemorrhage– This occurs when blood leaks from blood vessels onto the surface of the brain. ‘Subarachnoid’ refers to the area underneath the membrane in the brain. This is a medical emergency that can lead to serious complications such as brain damage or death.

Vascular dementia – This results from blood circulation problems where the brain is not receiving enough blood and oxygen. It is characterized by difficulties in thinking, language, memory, understanding, and judgment.


Preventing Diabetic Encephalopathy


It is very important to catch diabetic encephalopathy early on, before complications can become even more serious. The condition is usually diagnosed with cognitive tests and blood tests. Treatments may vary depending on the symptoms. Prevention is the best form of treatment, however. Diabete-site.com recommends that the following:

  1. Control diabetes well, as well as its complications such as hypertension, heart disease, hyperlipidemia, and cerebral arteriosclerosis.
  2. Be positive and optimistic. Avoid mood swings, overexertion, and exhaustion.
  3. Be aware of the pre-symptoms of stroke to prevent and treat them on time.
  4. Control and lessen transient cerebral ischemia. Work with your doctor to prevent transient cerebral ischemia.
  5. Regular check-ups and testing for cerebrovascular disease, particularly if you have vascular problems.