Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders are one of the scarier categories of illness both because of the impact they can have on your life and the fact that they’re often difficult to treat. Early diagnosis is one of the most important ways to help manage these conditions, which means you need to know if you’re at risk and how to recognize the signs (

A fairly broad range of conditions can come under the heading of neurological disorder. Some, like migraines, can be life-limiting but generally aren’t fatal. Others, like epilepsy, can come with a wide range of severity from the barely noticeable to the potentially deadly. Progressive conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis tend to have huge long-term impacts. With traumatic brain injury and strokes, recovery is unpredictable.

What all these conditions have in common is that they mainly affect the brain, spinal cord and nervous system, which means they disrupt the body’s ability to communicate with and control itself. Symptoms vary but may include muscle weakness, loss of sensation, paralysis, speech issues, difficulty swallowing, headaches, altered vision, tremors or seizures, confusion, memory loss, depression and mood swings. The impact can be physical, cognitive and emotional, which can cause social and financial issues.

Many neurological disorders have a genetic component. Huntingdon’s is one notable example, with others including spinal muscular atrophy and muscular dystrophy. Others are environmental, with exposure to toxins such as lead, mercury and pesticides, or to radiation, causing neurological impairments. Infections can cause inflammation of the brain with meningitis and encephalitis, while the nervous system can be damaged by autoimmune conditions such as Guillain-Barré syndrome. Then there are concussions, damaged spinal cords and other physical injuries.

Some people are more at risk than others. Many neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, are associated with age. Women are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis, while men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s. You become more at risk of neurological disorders if you have other conditions such as hypertension or diabetes, or if you drink and smoke too much. Nutrition and exercise play a role.

Medication may be used to manage symptoms such as seizures, or even to slow progressive disorders. Sometimes physical or occupational therapy can help. Surgery may be used with epilepsy or brain tumors. Outright cures are often impossible, however, so minimizing your risk factors may be the best approach.

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