Neurological disorders are disorders that affect the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Such disorders can occur as a result of structural, chemical, or electrical abnormalities within the nervous system.
There are many types of neurological disorders. While some are relatively benign and temporary, others are more serious and may require ongoing or emergency treatment.
This article explores five common neurological disorders, including their associated causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Neurological disorders are a group of illnesses that affect the central and peripheral nervous systems. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system consists of the nerves that branch out from these areas and into other parts of the body.
The nervous system is responsible for multiple bodily processes. Depending on the part of the nervous system the neurological condition affects, a person may experience difficulties with the following:
- eating and drinking
There are more than 600 neurological disorders with various causes. Some of these causes include:
Headache is the most common form of pain. There are many types of headaches, including:
The most common type of headache is tension headache, caused by tight muscles in the:
Common triggers include:
- lack of sleep
- missing meals
- alcohol consumption
People may find relief from tension headaches by taking an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever or making appropriate lifestyle changes.
People can usually treat headaches at home. However, some headaches can signal a more serious underlying condition that requires medical attention.
A person should inform their doctor if they experience any of the following:
- regular headaches occurring more than 15 days within a month
- a sudden, severe headache
- a headache following a blow to the head
- a headache in combination with any of the following symptoms:
- stiff neck
- pain in the ear or eye
- loss of consciousness
Epilepsy is a condition in which sudden bursts of electrical activity in the brain
Most cases of epilepsy do not have an identifiable cause. However, seizures occasionally occur as a result of the following:
- brain tumor
- brain infection
- severe head injury
- drug misuse or alcohol misuse
- a lack of oxygen during birth
There are two main types of seizures: generalized seizures affecting both sides of the brain, and focal seizures affecting one specific area of the brain.
The two types of generalized seizures are:
- Absence seizure: Absence seizures may cause symptoms of rapid blinking or staring into space.
- Tonic-clonic seizure: Tonic-clonic seizures may cause the following symptoms:
- crying out
- falling to the ground
- muscle spasms or jerks
- loss of consciousness
The three types of focal seizures are:
- Simple focal seizure: These can cause twitching and an unusual taste or smell.
- Complex focal seizure: These may cause confusion or disorientation.
- Secondary generalized seizure: Consists of a focal seizure, followed by a generalized seizure.
Treatment for epilepsy involves self-management to
- taking prescription anti-seizure medications
- keeping a record of seizures and seizure triggers
- getting an adequate amount of sleep
- managing stress levels
- exercising regularly
The term “dementia” refers to a group of symptoms associated with a progressive decline in brain function. There are various forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common.
The most significant risk factor for AD is advancing age. The majority of people with AD are age 65 or older.
Signs of AD may include:
- memory loss
- losing or misplacing items
- wandering and getting lost
- repeating questions
- poor judgment
- difficulty handling money and paying bills
- taking longer to complete everyday tasks
- loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative
- increased anxiety, aggression, or both
- mood and personality changes
There is currently no cure for AD. However, the Alzheimer’s Association states that the drug aducanumab (Aduhelm) is reasonably likely to reduce the decline in brain function among people living with early AD.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a disease caused by a loss of nerve cells within the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. This can lead to the following symptoms:
- muscle tremors that typically begin in the hand or arm
- muscle rigidity, which can affect movement and facial expressions
- slowed movement, which may present as a slow and shuffling walk
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, PD is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after AD.
Experts do not know what causes the loss of nerve cells in PD. However, genetics and environmental factors likely play a role.
There is currently no cure for PD. However, treatments are available to help alleviate symptoms and maintain a person’s quality of life. Examples include:
- Medication: Certain drugs or groups of drugs can help alleviate muscle tremors and movement issues. Examples include:
- dopamine agonists
- monoamine oxidase-B inhibitors
- Deep brain stimulation: A surgical procedure that involves inserting wires beneath the skin and into areas of the brain affected by PD. The wires are connected to a pulse generator that produces electrical currents to stimulate the affected brain areas. The procedure can ease the symptoms of PD.
- Supportive therapies: The following supportive therapies can help a person manage the symptoms of PD and improve their quality of life:
- physical therapy to help alleviate muscle stiffness and improve flexibility and walking
- occupational therapy to help a person maintain their independence within the home or during their daily activities
- speech and language therapy to help alleviate issues with speech or swallowing
- dietary advice to help alleviate potential complications of PD, such as weight loss or low blood pressure
Stroke is the medical term for when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Without an appropriate supply of blood, the brain cells within the affected area lack the vital oxygen and nutrients they need to function and survive.
In the United States, stroke is the
There are three types of stroke:
- ischemic stroke, resulting from a blood clot within a blood vessel that supplies the brain
- hemorrhagic stroke, resulting from a ruptured blood vessel within the brain
- transient ischemic attack (TIA), resulting from a temporary disruption in blood supply to the brain
As cells within the affected area of the brain die off, they can no longer perform their vital functions. The stroke symptoms a person experiences will depend on the area of the brain affected.
Signs of a stroke are typically sudden and may
- difficulty understanding speech
- difficulty speaking
- difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
- severe headache with no known cause
- numbness or weakness of the face, leg, or arm, especially on one side of the body
- difficulty walking
- loss of balance
- lack of coordination
The treatment for stroke
Possible treatment options include:
- Thrombolysis: A procedure that uses drugs called “thrombolytics” to dissolve blood clots and restore blood flow to the brain.
- Thrombectomy: Surgery to remove a blood clot from a large artery within the brain.
- Antiplatelet medications: Drugs to help prevent the formation of new blood clots.
- Anticoagulant medications: Drugs that change the chemical composition of the blood to help prevent the formation of new blood clots.
- Surgery: Although rare, surgery may sometimes be necessary to repair a burst blood vessel within the brain.
Neurological disorders are conditions that affect the central and peripheral nervous systems. Together, these systems include the brain, the spinal cord, and the nerves that extend out of these areas and into the rest of the body.
Some common types of neurological disorders include headache, epilepsy, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s Disease. These diseases affect different aspects of the nervous system and have their own associated causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Anyone who experiences symptoms of a neurological condition should see their doctor for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. People who experience sudden and severe symptoms should seek emergency medical attention.