Mental Retardation, has had significant advances within the last thirty years through research, that have prevented many cases. Newborn screening identifies biochemical or other inherited conditions that may have produced mental retardation. Making sure that a child or adult wears a bicycle helmet, reduces brain injury. Governmental programs are set up to insure that adequate nutrition is available too undernourished and underprivileged in the first critical years of life. Environmental programs are set up to reduce lead and mercury exposure to adults and children. Awareness of alcohol and drugs during pregnancy help reduce the incidence of retardation.
There are many leading causes of mental retardation. It can be caused by any condition which impairs development of the brain during birth or in the childhood years. The major causes of mental retardation are problems during pregnancy, problems at birth, problems after birth, poverty and cultural deprivation, and genetic conditions. During pregnancy the use of alcohol or drugs by the pregnant mother can cause mental retardation. Smoking, malnutrition, certain environmental containment, and illnesses are increasing risk during pregnancy of mental retardation. If prematurity occurs during birth, it also can have an effect on the brain. Accidents such as a blow to the head or near drowning can cause mental retardation. Lead, mercury, and other environmental toxins can cause irreparable damage to the brain and nervous system. .
Children of poor families may become mentally retarded because of malnutrition, disease-producing conditions, inadequate medical care and environmental hazards. Also, children in disadvantaged areas may be deprived of many common cultural and day to day experiences provided to other children in an advantaged area. The results of abnormal genes inherited form their parents, or errors when genes combined. More than 500 genetic diseases are associated with mental retardation.