It is a complex system that coordinates all the activities of the body.
The nervous system is vital for communication between the different parts of the body. Additionally, the nervous system reacts to changes inside and outside the body by using electrical and chemical means to send and receive messages.
There are two main subsets of the nervous system: the central nervous system, which is made up of the spinal cord and brain , and the peripheral nervous system, which is made up of all other neural elements.
On the other hand, the peripheral nervous system is divided into two other systems: the autonomic and the somatic. In relation to the first, the autonomic nervous system is made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
The autonomic nervous system helps control the unconscious activities of the organs and glands within the body; while the somatic system helps transfer information from the eyes, ears, muscles and skin to the central nervous system. It also helps to move the body by contracting and relaxing the muscles.
The primary organs of the nervous system include the eyes, ears, sensory receptors in the skin, muscles, and joints, as well as the sensory organs for smell and taste.
Although the symptoms of diseases of the nervous system can vary, the most common general symptoms include sudden onset of headache , different-than-normal headache , altered sensation (numbness or tingling), muscle weakness, muscle wasting, and vision changes ( loss of sight or double vision).
Other symptoms are memory loss, impaired mental functioning, muscle stiffness, lack of coordination, seizures or tremors, radiating back pain, and slurred speech.
People who experience any of these symptoms should consult with their doctors to rule out an underlying nervous system disease.
The nervous system can be affected by:
- Structural defects.
- Autoimmune disorders
- Interruption of blood flow
Nervous system diseases
Accidente cerebrovascular (ACV)
A blood vessel in the brain can burst and cause internal bleeding. Or, a clot can arise in a cerebral blood vessel (a thrombus) or arise elsewhere (embolus) and travel to become stuck in a brain vessel that then deprives brain tissue of oxygen.
Depending on the area of the brain involved, the patient may suffer paralysis, loss of speech, or loss of vision.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA)
A short period of insufficient blood supply to the brain can have the same signs and symptoms as a stroke such as weakness in one arm, a partial loss of vision, but the problem lasts less than 24 hours.
People who get TIA are at higher risk of having a stroke later in life.
Aphasia is a communication disorder that results from damage or injury to the language parts of the brain. It is more common in older adults, particularly those who have had a stroke.
Aphasia gets in the way of a person’s ability to use or understand words.
Aphasia does not affect a person’s intelligence. People with aphasia may have a hard time speaking and finding the “right” words to complete their thoughts.
They may also have trouble understanding conversation, reading and understanding written words, writing words, and using numbers.
Alzheimer’s disease is an age-related disease that affects a person’s cognitive ability. Degeneration of healthy brain tissue is the most common cause.
The condition causes a loss of social and intellectual skills that eventually interfere with daily life. Symptoms include memory loss, disorientation, and loss of judgment.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, so treatment focuses on improving a patient’s quality of life.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that affects body movement. Although the exact cause of this condition is unknown, researchers believe that it may be caused by the presence of specific genetic mutations.
Symptoms include hand tremors, slow movements, changes in speech, and memory loss.
As Parkinson’s disease progresses, it can make daily tasks increasingly difficult. There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease.
Forms of treatment that can control symptoms include medications, physical therapy, and in some cases, surgery.
Muscular dystrophy is a condition that causes the degeneration of muscles in the body. The most common forms of muscular dystrophy are due to a genetic deficiency of a certain muscle protein called dystrophin.
Symptoms of muscular dystrophy include muscle weakness, frequent falls, progressive paralysis, and lack of coordination.
There is no cure for muscular dystrophy. Treatment focuses on slowing the progression of paralysis and keeping the muscles mobile for as long as possible. This can be done with the help of physical therapy or surgery.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes seizures. Typically, these seizures are caused by faulty or failing electrical impulses in the brain. Symptoms can include uncontrollable jerking movements and temporary confusion.
The seizures can become so violent that they cause bodily harm to the person with the disorder. Although seizures are a characteristic symptom of epilepsy, experiencing one does not mean you have epilepsy.
A minimum of two unprovoked seizures are required for a diagnosis of epilepsy.
Treatment for epilepsy includes medications, surgery, and vagus nerve stimulation.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disorder that affects the central nervous system and can lead to paralysis. The condition occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the protective covering that covers the nerves. This results in a disruption in communication between the brain and the body.
Early symptoms of the disease include blurred vision, double vision, or a distortion of the colors red and green, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
There is no cure for MS, but treatment through medication and physical therapy can help control and decrease symptoms.
Treatment for diseases of the nervous system is based on the underlying problem. Typically, patients are referred to a neurologist, who is a doctor who specializes in diseases of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
The neurologist will conduct a detailed medical history and physical examination, and may order a variety of additional tests, including:
- Lumbar puncture: This test allows the cerebrospinal fluid to be analyzed for bacteria that may be causing meningitis, proteins that are specific to multiple sclerosis, or blood cells.
- Brain scan: Brain tumors can be visualized by introducing a radioactive element into the bloodstream.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG): This test measures brain wave activity and can be helpful in diagnosing various conditions, including epilepsy and brain tumors.
- Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): These two imaging techniques can be used to visualize different areas of the body in detail for signs of disease.
Depending on the type of nervous system disease, treatment may focus on curing the condition, controlling symptoms, or slowing the progression of the disease.
For patients suffering from diseases of the nervous system that are the result of an infection, antibiotics will be started to help fight the infection. The type of antibiotic used will depend on the bacteria causing the disease.
Neuropathic pain can be treated with a combination of pain relievers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (MANE). Also, some patients may be given antiseizure or antidepressant medications to treat their neuropathic pain symptoms.
Patients suffering from functional disorders, such as headaches and epilepsy, can be treated with prophylactic therapy to help prevent headaches and seizures. Prophylactic treatment for epileptic patients may include anticonvulsant medications.
Prophylactic treatment for migraineurs may include a variety of medications, such as propranolol, timolol, amitriptyline, divalproex, sodium valproate, or topiramate.
The goal of prophylactic treatment is to minimize the frequency, intensity and duration of symptoms in an attempt to improve the quality of life of patients.
Patients suffering from degenerative disorders, including multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, are generally treated with a combination of medications that are specific to their condition, as well as a rehabilitation program that can help maintain function and maintain quality optimal life.
Patients who have structural or vascular disorders may require a referral to a neurosurgeon to discuss the possibility of surgery to control their nervous system disease.
The nervous system is a complex system in the body that is responsible for coordinating all the functions of the body. Damage to the nervous system can lead to various diseases, which can be vascular, infectious, structural, functional, or degenerative in nature.
Symptoms of diseases of the nervous system vary from one disease to the next; patients experiencing any worrisome symptoms should consult with their physician to rule out nervous system disease.
Treatments for diseases of the nervous system can be aimed at curing the disease, controlling and preventing symptoms, or slowing the progression of the disease.
Patients with diseases of the nervous system should consult with a neurologist to help determine the best course of treatment for them.