Disorders of the nervous system can encompass a range of conditions that may either be chronic in nature or may be triggered by secondary factors. This can make diagnosis a complicated aspect of reaching a mode of treatment, but is also necessary when ruling out internal causes for symptom expression. As a result, a number of conditions may be classified as nervous system disorders, even if the initial cause was a separate event.
Ultimately, nervous system disorders are described as any health condition where the miscommunications in the brain and spinal cord affect physical function. While many of these conditions can be chronic or permanent in nature, some may be acute if they are the result of an infectious disease or of an accident and can be rectified over time.
What can be affected by Nervous System Disorders?
Since the brain and spinal cord relay messages to the rest of the body, any type of physical function can be impacted by a nervous system disorder. Conditions are commonly evidenced through trouble with sensory organs, although cognitive impairment and pain can also be indicative of a neurological disorder. Some of the more common problems that relate back to a nervous system disorder include:
- Eyesight problems – these can occur even if the eyes themselves are in proper health. The issues of blurriness, double vision, or other sensory disruptions are a result of how the information from the eyes is being perceived by the brain.
- Hearing problems – these can be similar to issues that are noticed with eyesight, in that the sensory organ itself is healthy, but the signals to the brain are being disrupted.
- Pain and numbness – these can be as a result of actual damage to the nerve receptors for sensing touch stimulus, but can also be related back to damaged neural pathways that corrupt the signals being relayed to the central nervous system.
Other issues with balance and cognition may also be present, although imaging diagnostics and observation may be required to determine the nature of the problem. For many nervous system disorders, the use of EEGs for function and brain imaging are both utilized to determine cause. Some conditions such as Parkinson’s will also require a physician evaluation in order to make the full diagnosis, as testing results can be similar to other disorders and the observation of symptom expression is required to distinguish the actual illness.
What Causes a Nervous System Disorder?
There are a number of different actions that can lead to a nervous system disorder. While many conditions may be inherited or genetic in nature, others can have direct links to environmental or situational events. The most common causes associated with a nervous system disorder include:
- Physical trauma – this may include a global injury or other event that disrupts the function of the brain or spinal cord.
- Infections – these can be acute causes such as meningitis, which relate directly back to the health of the nervous system, or these can be caused by secondary issues such as sepsis from a poorly treated wound or surgical procedure. Any infection that becomes systemic has the potential to disrupt brain function.
- Degeneration – this will usually relate back to genetic predispositions or possibly inherited conditions, and can include diagnoses such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, or multiple sclerosis. This will all involve the deterioration of nerve or the inability of the body to produce the necessary chemicals to promote proper function.
- Autoimmune disorders – although the results of this cause can be similar to degeneration, they are incited by the body attacking its own tissue. In the case of lupus or Epstein-Barre, the patient’s immune system is responsible for the inflammation and deterioration that cause the nervous system to function improperly.
- Blood flow problems – some nervous system disorders may be caused by fluctuations in blood pressure. This can include blockages from clots or the long term effects from a stroke or ischemia.
- Structural defects – although these may arise from outside causes, structural defects are most commonly associated with physiological differences that individuals are born with or that develop over time. Conditions such as Bell’s palsy and carpal tunnel syndrome are all considered structural defects.
- Functional defects – while these can be related to actual physical abnormalities, these nervous system disorders are more commonly known as ones where the symptom expression is a result of electrical and chemical signals to the brain being poorly processed. This can include conditions such as epilepsy and seizures, migraines, and general pain disorders.
What Types of Symptoms are Associated with Nervous System Disorders?
Since the brain and spinal cord control all of physical function, the symptoms for different conditions can include a number of expressions. These are not always related to cognitive and perception based issues, but can include systemic deterioration which is the result of corrupted information being processed by the brain and nerves.
Some nervous system disorders are specifically tied to the manner in which stimulus is interpreted. These are often associated with extreme pain, and can include general neuralgia and migraines. Cognitive impairment can also be grouped into the category of information processing, although other physical issues can also be present.
Some of the general symptoms that may be observed in a number of nervous system disorders include:
- Headaches – especially those that come on suddenly or remain persistent over the course of time. These will frequently feel different then a stress or pressure headache, and may seem to radiate out from within the skull.
- Numbness or tingling – although this can happen at any point on the body, it is frequently felt within the extremities. Burning in the hands and feet can also be an indicator, although loss of feeling in different parts of the body is also a cause for concern.
- Weakness or loss of muscle strength – this can be a general sensation, or can be a specific action that is experienced as an inability to control the body. This symptom will often tends to progress over time, although it can be a punctuating event.
- Sudden loss of sight – any type of vision impairment can be associated with a nervous system disorder. Individuals who suffer from ocular migraines will often experience these fluctuations, with or without pain.
- Memory loss and cognitive impairment – disruption to the mental process can be an immediate sign of a nervous system disorder, and may also be acute or chronic in nature.
- Tremors and seizures – these symptoms can be indicative of either a structural or functional impairment, and may also relate back to the messages that muscles are receiving from the brain and nerve endings.