Diseases of the Nervous System

The nervous system is a complex and sophisticated system responsible for regulating and coordinating body activities. It is divided into the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS is the largest part of the nervous system, consisting of the brain and spinal cord, whereas the PNS consists largely of nerves and neurons. Together they control the workings of the body.

Neurological diseases are disorders of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves through out the body. When you have trouble speaking, moving, swallowing, breathing or thinking, this indicates that something is wrong with a part of your nervous system. Other symptoms include considerable changes in your mood, senses, or memory.

The major types of neurological diseases include the following: degenerative diseases (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease); diseases caused by faulty genes (muscular dystrophy); diseases of blood vessels supplying the brain (stroke); problems in the development of the nervous system (spina bifida); spinal cord and brain injuries; seizure disorders (epilepsy); cancer; and other infections.

Below is a list of selected diseases and syndromes of the nervous system with a brief description of each. Some of these have unknown causes and scientists have yet to find proven treatments for most neurological diseases. Knowing the common symptoms of such diseases will aid in giving proper diagnosis and care.

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Affecting one in 10 persons over the age of 65 and almost half of those over 85, AD is recognized as the most common cause of dementia, a disorder in which mental functions deteriorate and breakdown. AD is a progressive and neurodegenerative disease occurring in the brain resulting into impaired memory, thinking, and behavior.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is one of the most devastating disorders affecting nerve and muscle functions. It is characterized by progressive degeneration of nerve cells found in the spinal cord and the brain.

Bell’s Palsy. A condition resulting from damage to the facial cranial nerve, Bell’s palsy is an unexplained episode of weakness in the facial muscle that shortly begins and worsens in a span of 3 to 5 days.

Brain Cancer and Brain Tumor. Malignant tumors starting in any brain tissue are classified as primary brain cancer. Whereas secondary brain cancer starts in another part of the body and spreads to the brain. Both are treated differently. Benign tumors don’t contain cancer cells but may cause pressure in areas of the brain showing symptoms of brain cancer.

Epilepsy. When parts of the brain receive a burst of abnormal electrical signals temporarily interrupting normal brain function, a seizure occurs. A person may experience one or more seizures at a given time.

Meningitis. The inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain, known as meninges, is called meningitis. It may be caused either by a virus or a bacterium. Infection can reach the brain in several ways, may be through the bloodstream, from a head injury, etc.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS). A chronic disease of the central nervous system, MS is an unpredictable condition that may be relatively benign, disabling, or at times devastating. When communication between the brain and parts of the body is disrupted, those affected with MS may be incapacitated to write, speak, or walk.

Muscular Dystrophy. This group of genetic diseases is characterized by progressive weakness and degeneration of the skeletal or voluntary muscles controlling movement. Commonly, muscular dystrophy is hereditary, progressive, and causes selective patterns of weakness.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Parkinson’s is a slow progressing, degenerative disease with symptoms that include tremors, rigidness of the trunk and limbs, bradykinesia or slowness of movement, and unstable postures. These indications all result from the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells.

Stroke. Also called a "brain attack," a stroke occurs when brain cells break down because of inadequate blood flow. These are caused by blockage in the artery of the heart or brain, and then by bleeding in the brain. This is why it is considered a cardiovascular disease and a neurological disorder.

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