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Corticobasal Degeneration — causes, side effects and treatments at

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 by

Corticobasal degeneration is a rare and progressive neurodegenerative condition distinguished by the break down of certain parts of the brain, specifically the basal cortex and basal ganglia. The cerebral cortex is the outer layer of the cerebrum that is involved in several bodily functions like motor function and language processing; the basal ganglia, on the other hand, is a group of subcortical nuclei that aid in movement.

Currently, there is no known definite cause for corticobasal degeneration. This disease is not inherited, nor is there any evidence to suggest that toxins or infectious agents can cause a person to develop it. As per, corticobasal degeneration is sporadic in the majority of cases. Research has linked corticobasal degeneration to tau proteins, which are microtubule-associated proteins commonly found in neurons. People who have corticobasal degeneration tend to have abnormal tau levels in their brain cells; why this occurs is unknown.

Known side effects of corticobasal degeneration

The vast majority of patients with corticobasal degeneration usually have it between 50 and 80 years of age. In its early stages, corticobasal degeneration tends to affect the limbs and causes the patient to experience:

  • Alien limb syndrome, or feeling as though the limb doesn’t belong to the patient
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dystonia (or spasms)
  • Loss of feeling in the limbs
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Problems with coordination
  • Tremors

As the disease progresses, the patient will begin to exhibit more severe symptoms like:

  • Akinetic-rigid syndrome: A movement disorder characterized by slow movements accompanied by muscle stiffness and passive movement resistance
  • Aphasia: A language disorder that impacts one’s ability to comprehend and express language
  • Dementia
  • Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing
  • Personality changes such as growing increasingly anxious, irritable, or apathetic
  • Postural instability
  • Problems with numbers and counting
  • Short-term memory loss

In its most advanced stages, corticobasal degeneration will often rob patients of their ability to move their limbs. Some may require assistance from others or may need a wheelchair. People in these stages of corticobasal degeneration will undergo several other symptoms, namely:

  • Increasing dysphagia, leading to the need for a feeding tube
  • Uncontrollable blinking
  • Worsening speech problems

Although similar to Parkinson’s disease, corticobasal degeneration greatly differs in that its symptoms cannot be mitigated by the administration of the drug levodopa.

Body systems harmed by corticobasal degeneration

As a neurodegenerative disease, corticobasal degeneration primarily impacts the brain. However, it can harm other organs and organ systems as it worsens over time.

For instance, the dysphagia associated with corticobasal degeneration can result in respiratory issues. Being unable to swallow can cause food particles or fluids to enter the lungs and lead to chest infections. This can then progress into aspiration pneumonia, a life-threatening breathing condition.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent corticobasal degeneration

Though there aren’t any foods that can totally prevent the onset of corticobasal degeneration, there are some that can slow down its progression. In general, foods rich in folate and vitamins B6 and B12 are said to be essential in maintaining healthy brains.

Specific brain-healthy foods and beverages include:

  • Ginseng: The roots of this plant contain unique triterpenoid saponins called ginsenosides. One particular ginsenoside has been linked to the growth and recovery of brain cells. As such, ginseng is often recommended to those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Chamomile: Thanks to its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions, chamomile is a powerful free radical scavenger. This means that it can greatly reduce oxidative stress.
  • Turmeric: Similar to chamomile, turmeric possesses powerful antioxidant qualities that can protect neuronal cells and tissues from damage.

Treatments, management plans for corticobasal degeneration

Corticobasal degeneration has no cure, so the most that can be done for those with this condition is to help them manage the symptoms. This course of treatment will usually call for:

  • Medication: The patient will be given medication depending on their symptoms and complications, as well as the severity of these indications. To be more precise, the affected person may be prescribed medication for muscle stiffness, incontinence, irritability, and/or jerky movements.
  • Therapy: The patient may undergo:
    • Physiotherapy to help restore limb movement and function
    • Occupational therapy to assist them them in going about their day-to-day activities in spite of their limitations
    • Speech and language therapy for communication and to treat swallowing problems
  • Palliative care: The aim of palliative care is to offer support in all fronts. This can be provided at any stage of corticobasal degeneration and can be given at home or in a hospital or hospice.

Where to learn more


Corticobasal degeneration is a rare, progressive disease that affects specific regions of the brain. People who have this disease will experience increasingly worsening symptoms that range from muscle stiffness to short-term memory loss to dementia to difficulty swallowing. People with corticobasal degeneration are at risk of other health complications, such as aspiration pneumonia. Corticobasal degeneration appears similar to Parkinson’s disease, but the medication that is usually given to people with Parkinson’s has no effect on corticobasal degeneration.

At the moment, there is no cure for this disease. Treatment will involve caring for the patient and helping them live out their daily lives. Medication may be prescribed, while therapy may be provided as needed.

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