The field of medicine known as neurology deals with the study and treatment of disorders of the nervous system.
The nervous system regulates and coordinates the activities of the body.
Neurologists treat diseases of the brain and spinal cord, as well as peripheral nerves and muscles.
Neurologists may also specialize in one area of neurology, such as stroke, epilepsy, neuromuscular disorders, sleep medicine, pain management, or movement disorders.
Strokes are medical emergencies, and prompt treatment is crucial.
Early intervention can prevent brain damage and other complications.
As soon as possible, dial 911 or your local emergency number. Don’t wait for symptoms to subside. Each minute counts.
The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the risk of brain damage and disability.
In the event that you suspect someone is having a stroke, keep a close eye on the person while waiting for emergency help.
A stroke may be caused by a blocked artery (ischemic stroke) or by a bleeding or burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke).
Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are temporary disruptions of blood flow to the brain that don’t lead to lasting symptoms.
An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks or narrows an artery leading to the brain.
An ischemic stroke is by far the most common type.
It occurs when blood vessels in the brain narrow or block, resulting in a reduced flow of blood (ischemia).
Most often, narrowed or blocked blood vessels are caused by fatty deposits that form in blood vessels or by blood clots or other debris that travel through the bloodstream and lodge in the brain’s blood vessels.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures in the brain.
Hemorrhages in the brain can be caused by many conditions that affect the blood vessels.
Less commonly, a tangle of thin-walled blood vessels can rupture in the brain (an arteriovenous malformation).
A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a ministroke, is a temporary period of symptoms similar to those of a stroke.
TIAs do not cause permanent damage.
A TIA is caused by a temporary drop in blood supply to part of the brain, which may last as short as five minutes.
A TIA occurs when a clot or debris reduces or blocks blood flow to a part of the nervous system, similar to an ischemic stroke.
Even if your symptoms have improved, you should get emergency care.
You can’t tell if you’re having a stroke or TIA based only on your symptoms.
A TIA means that an artery leading to the brain may be partially blocked or narrowed.
A TIA increases your risk of having a full-blown stroke in the future.
Around 50 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy, a chronic, noncommunicable disease of the brain.
In general, it is characterized by recurrent seizures, which are brief episodes of involuntary movement in one or more parts of the body, often accompanied by loss of consciousness or impairment of bowel or bladder function.
A seizure episode occurs when a group of brain cells discharge too much electrical energy.
These discharges can occur anywhere along the brain.
A seizure can range from a brief lapse of attention or muscle jerk to a severe convulsion.
A seizure can also vary in frequency, ranging from less than one per year to several per day.
One seizure does not mean that you have epilepsy (up to 10% of people worldwide have one seizure in their lifetime).
Having two or more unprovoked seizures is considered epilepsy.
Seizures have different characteristics based on where in the brain they occur and how far they spread.
Symptoms are temporary, such as loss of awareness or consciousness, and disturbances of movement, sensation (including vision, hearing, and taste), mood, or other cognitive functions.
Epilepsy is associated with more physical problems (such as fractures and bruising from seizures), as well as higher rates of psychological conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
The risk of premature death in people with epilepsy is up to three times higher than in the general population, with the highest rates found in low- and middle-income countries and in rural areas.
A neuromuscular disorder can cause your muscles to weaken and waste away.
Symptoms such as spasms, twitching, and pain may also occur.
The causes of these diseases can vary.
They are often genetic, meaning they are inherited (run in families) or caused by new mutations in your genes.
A number of neuromuscular disorders are autoimmune disorders.
The cause of these disorders is not always known.
There is no cure for many neuromuscular diseases.
However, treatment can alleviate some symptoms, improve mobility, and extend life.
Over time, these disorders cause muscle weakness and fatigue.
Neuromuscular disorders may exhibit symptoms as early as infancy, while others may appear in childhood or even in adulthood.
The symptoms of neuromuscular disorders depend on the type of disorder and the area of the body affected.
Ataxia is a degenerative disorder of the brain, spinal cord, or brainstem.
This can result in clumsiness, inaccuracy, instability, imbalance, tremors, or a lack of coordination when performing voluntary movements.
Movements appear disjointed and jerky.
Patients may frequently fall over due to an unsteady gait.
Patients with ataxia may find it difficult to speak and to move their eyes.
Dystonia is a neurological muscle disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions. Dystonia is caused by a malfunction of the basal ganglia, a part of the brain that helps coordinate movement.
Those regions of the brain control speed and fluidity of movement and prevent unintentional movements.
Dystonic patients may experience uncontrollable twisting, repetitive movements, or abnormal postures and positions.
Any part of the body can be affected, including the arms, legs, eyelids, and vocal cords.
A general dystonia affects the entire body.
Typically, focal dystonias affect only one body location, such as the neck (spasmodic torticollis), eyelids (blepharospasm), lower face (Meige syndrome), or hand (writer’s cramp or limb dystonia).
The condition can be very disabling depending on which part of the body is affected.
Dystonia can be treated with injections of botulinum toxin (Botox), medication, or surgery.
These treatments may be used alone or in combination.
A Botox injection may lessen abnormal movements and postures by blocking nerve-muscle communication.
When other treatments have not worked, surgery may be considered.
Surgery aims at interrupting the pathways responsible for abnormal movements at various levels of the nervous system.
The thalamus, the globus pallidus, and other deep brain regions may be intentionally damaged during some operations.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has recently been tried with some success.
Other surgeries include removing the nerves that enter the muscles at the point they contract (selective peripheral denervation) or cutting the nerves at the roots of the nerves close to the spinal cord (anterior cervical rhizotomy).
Usually occurring in one or both hands or arms, essential tremor is an uncontrolled shaking or trembling that worsens when basic movements are attempted.
It is caused by abnormalities in the areas of the brain that control movement and is not caused by an underlying disease (e.g. Parkinson’s disease).
About 50 percent of patients have a family history of the disorder.
Although this condition usually does not cause serious complications, it can certainly interfere with daily activities and cause distress.
Physical therapy or lifestyle changes may improve symptoms in some cases.
Medication or surgery are considered if the condition impairs a patient’s ability to perform daily tasks.
About 50 to 75 percent of patients taking medications experience a reduction in their tremor.
Beta-blockers, anti-seizure medications, benzodiazepines, and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors are often prescribed.
Beta-blockers are usually prescribed for younger patients because they may cause memory loss and confusion in older patients.
Botox injections block nerve communication with muscles and may reduce tremors.
Surgery may be recommended if the tremor is severe enough to cause disability.
Thalamotomy is a procedure that destroys a portion of the thalamus, an area deep within the brain that receives sensory messages.
About 75 percent of patients who undergo this procedure find relief on one side of their bodies.
Due to the high risk of speech loss, surgery on both sides of the thalamus is uncommon.
In severe cases of essential tremor unresponsive to medication, deep brain stimulation may be a surgical option.
In the thalamus, a hair-thin wire is implanted and connected to a neurostimulator under the collarbone.
The neurostimulator interrupts the signals that cause tremor by sending electrical impulses along the wire to the thalamus.
MSA is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that affects movement, blood pressure, and other body functions.
There are three diseases associated with MSA based on the symptoms, onset and severity of symptoms: Shy-Drager syndrome, striatonigral degeneration, and olivopontocerebellar atrophy.
This condition is characterized by stiffness or rigidity, as well as difficulty swallowing and speaking.
Some of the symptoms associated with this disease may be treated with medication.
Levodopa and dopamine agonists used to treat Parkinson’s disease may be effective in treating slowness and rigidity.
Prescriptions that increase blood pressure can improve orthostatic hypotension.
As MSA progresses, medication benefits diminish.
The patient may need a feeding tube when the condition has progressed and is more severe, when they are unable to swallow on their own.
Myoclonus is an intermittent or twitching contraction of a muscle or group of muscles.
There are several major types and many subtypes of myoclonus.
Cortical myoclonus, which arises from an area of the brain called the sensorimotor cortex, is the most common type.
As a rule, jerky movements have a regular rhythm and may involve one muscle (focal) or several different muscles (multifocal).
There are many diseases that can cause them, or they can occur without apparent cause.
Myoclonus is associated with Celiac disease, Angelman syndrome, Huntington’s disease, Rett syndrome, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The symptoms of subcortical myoclonus can affect several muscle groups (generalized) and may be caused by low oxygen levels in the brain (hypoxia) or a metabolic process, such as kidney or liver failure.
In most cases, spinal myoclonus is caused by a focal spinal lesion, such as multiple sclerosis, syringomyelia, trauma, ischemic myelopathy or an infection, such as herpes zoster, Lyme disease, E. coli or HIV.
The jerking usually lasts longer and is more variable than in cortical or subcortical myoclonus, and it continues during sleep.
The most common type of peripheral myoclonus is hemifacial spasm, which may occur without cause or be caused by a compression of the facial nerve.
Sleep movements can last only a few days or even a few months.
Myoclonus can be further classified by the body parts affected and by the underlying causes.
The symptoms of myoclonus can be reduced by prescribing medications.
Combining multiple medications may be effective in some cases.
Barbiturates, phenytoin, primidone, sodium valproate, and clonazepam are some of the medications prescribed.
Patients should work closely with their doctors to manage their medication since all these medications have the potential to cause side effects.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behavior.
The symptoms eventually become severe enough to interfere with daily activities.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia in older adults.
Dementia is a brain disorder that seriously limits a person’s ability to carry out their daily activities.
The onset of AD is gradual. The process starts with the parts of the brain responsible for thought, memory, and language.
Those with AD may have trouble remembering things that happened recently or names of people they know.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a related condition, leads to more memory difficulties than normal for people of the same age.
Some people with MCI may also develop AD.
Over time, symptoms of AD worsen.
Family members might not be recognized.
They might have difficulties speaking, reading, or writing.
They might forget how to brush their teeth or comb their hair.
Eventually, they may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home.
Total care is needed eventually.
This can cause great stress for family members caring for them.
The onset of AD usually occurs after age 60.
As you age, your risk increases.
Having a family member who has the disease increases your risk.
The disease cannot be cured by any treatment.
Some drugs, however, may keep symptoms from getting worse for a limited time.
The field of medicine known as neurology focuses on the study, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of the nervous system.
Regulatory and coordination functions of the nervous system are complex and sophisticated.
There are two major parts of the nervous system: the central nervous system and the spinal cord.
Specialists who treat diseases of the nervous system, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, and muscles, are called neurologists.
Epilepsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Parkinson’s disease are all neurological conditions.
Anxiety is not considered a neurological disorder, mainly because several neurological disorders cause anxiety.
However, it can still create symptoms, such as adrenaline rushes and hyperventilation.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, slow-onset disease that affects memory and cognition gradually over time.
Dementia refers to a group of symptoms that have negative impacts on memory, whereas Alzheimer’s is a specific, continuous disease of the brain that impacts memory and cognition.
The exact cause is unknown, and there is no cure for either.
Alzheimer’s disease has an average life expectancy of eight to 10 years.
Those diagnosed in their 80s or 90s have an even shorter life expectancy.
Alzheimer’s patients sometimes live for 15 or even 20 years.
Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder that affects the brain.
Symptoms include tremors, slowness of movement, stiff muscles, unsteady walking, and problems with balance and coordination.
The disease has no known cure.
Scientists do not fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease in most people.
Age-related changes in the brain are likely to be responsible, along with genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.
Alzheimer’s patients typically live between three and 11 years after diagnosis, but some live for 20 years or longer.
The severity of impairment at diagnosis can affect life expectancy.
Hypertension, for example, is associated with a faster progression of Alzheimer’s disease if left untreated.