The nervous system is a complex mechanism that regulates and coordinates voluntary and mechanical body activities. It includes the Central Nervous System consisting of the brain and spinal cord and their nerves networks; and the Peripheral Nervous System consisting of autonomic nerves, muscles, neuromuscular junctions, and peripheral nerves, and roots.
Diseases and disorders of the nervous system are called neurological conditions. There are over 600 such identified diseases, affecting hundreds of millions globally.
Neurological diseases are classified under several categories.
Autoimmune Neurological Disorders
Autoimmunity occurs when the body’s own immune system attacks, damages, and even destroys organs, instead of external “enemies.” This attack can target any part of the central or peripheral nervous systems.
Guillain Barre Syndrome: muscle weakness due to autoimmune attacks that damage the peripheral nervous system.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS): chronic, progressive autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. The progress is gradual. The patient experiences spells of remissions and disabling flare-ups in turn.
Myasthenia gravis: characterized by weakness and rapid onset fatigue of voluntary muscles.
Lupus: autoimmune inflammatory disease affecting many different body systems.
Degenerative Neurological Disorders
These impair balance, brain and heart function, breathing, movement and speech. The causes could be environmental, genetic, infections, medical or physiological. They can be serious or life-threatening. Most have no cure.
Alzheimer’s: common and ultimately fatal disease in the dementia group. Progressive decline in mental ability is caused by degeneration of neurons in the brain, interfering with normal daily life and function. Symptoms include behavioral problems, confusion, impaired intellectual and language skills, loss of memory movement difficulties, and personality changes.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS): or Lou Gehrig’s disease is a progressive degeneration of nerve cells that control muscle movements. Symptoms worsen as nerve cells die and muscles stop functioning. Ultimately respiratory muscles become paralyzed resulting in death.
Huntington’s disease (HD): an inherited disease that erodes nerve cells in the brain, causing balance issues, behavioral problems, jerky uncontrolled movements, dementia and physical disabilities.
Lewy body disease: common cause of dementia in the elderly. Abnormal structures – Lewy bodies – build up in the brain, causing abnormal physical and mental behaviors.
Parkinson’s disease (PD): movement disorder when the brain doesn’t produce enough of the chemical dopamine. Symptoms include changes in gait and speech, muscle rigidity, slowed or uncontrolled movement, tremors, impaired balance and coordination.
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA): genetic disease that targets spinal cord motor neurons. The weakened muscles atrophy as the neurons die, thus impairing breathing, head and neck control, swallowing and walking functions.
Functional Neurological Disorders (FND)
These disorders are widespread, causing malfunctions in the signaling processes of the nervous system. FND encompass a wide variety of neurological symptoms.
Epilepsy or seizure disorder: one of the most common neurological diseases where recurrent episodes of seizures occur due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
Headaches: chronic episodes accompanied by nausea, fatigue and light and noise sensitivity can indicate the development of pathological processes like brain tumors.
Migraine: common neurological disease caused by environmental or genetic factors. Symptoms include painful, throbbing headaches, perception difficulties, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.
Neuralgia: severe, stabbing, burning pain from irritated or damaged nerves. Causes include aging and certain diseases and infections.
Infectious Disease-Related Neurological Disorders
WHO cites infections as the primary threat to neurological health. Bacterial, fungal, parasitic and viral infections can impact the nervous system. Neurological symptoms get triggered either by the infection itself, or by an immune response.
Infectious diseases typically start elsewhere in the body, affect the nervous system and lead to neurological damage, disorder or death. The most common infections include:
Encephalitis: an inflammation in the brain.
Epidural abscess: pus between the outer layers of the brain and spinal cord.
Meningitis: viral or bacterial infection in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in brain damage or death.
Polio: contagious disease from fecal-oral contact that ultimately leads to paralysis.
Structural Neurological Disorders
Structural neurological disorders result from trauma to the musculo-skeletal, nervous or vascular systems. Conditions in this group include:
Bell’s palsy: weakness and paralysis in facial muscles, causing distortion, drooping and dysfunction.
Brain tumors: abnormal cell growths that damage tissue and place pressure on the brain. Convulsions, headaches, nausea, seizures, sensory loss, vomiting, and weakness in the extremities are typical symptoms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome: the median nerve at the wrist gets compressed and causes neuropathic symptoms.
Cervical spondylosis: inflammation and osteoarthritis of the nerves and muscles in the neck.
Peripheral neuropathy: damage to the peripheral nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord.
Spinal cord tumors: Primary spinal tumors are rare and usually benign. Most spinal cord cancers are secondary and metastasize to the spine from other primary sources.
Vascular Neurological Disorders
Most common vascular disorders include:
Extradural hemorrhage: blood vessels ruptured by a skull fracture.
Subarachnoid hemorrhage: bleeding between the brain and its surrounding tissues.
Subdural hemorrhage and hematoma: pooled blood – from a burst aneurysm for example – exerting pressure on the brain.
Stroke: blood supply to the brain is severely or entirely diminished, causing oxygen and nutrition deprivation. This can cause brain cells to die, resulting in significant disability and even death.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): or “mini-strokes,” caused by temporary disruption of the blood supply to the brain.
At Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery we practice comprehensive, patient-centered care. If you’ve experienced a head injury or have neck, back, or leg pain, call us today at (303) 790-1800 or use our online form to request an appointment.