How to Learn the Main Disorders of the Nervous System

There are hundreds of nervous system disorders, but when trying to get a basic understanding of them it is easiest to look at the most common. Below is a brief list of the most common nervous system disorders, divided up into categories relative to the body.[1]


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    Learn some of the primary vascular disorders. Vascular disorders are one of the most common types of nervous system disorders, characterized by issues with the blood vessels throughout the body. Vascular disorders are often genetic, but can also be caused by being overweight, having high cholesterol, going for long periods sitting, and chronic smoking.[2]
    • A stroke is caused when the brain does not get enough blood as a result of a blood vessel being cut off or losing its connection to the brain as the result of a blocked artery. It is treated most often with blood-thinning medications by a doctor.[3]
    • Subarachnoid hemorrhages are when there is blood or fluid that leaks into the space between the brain and the membrane that covers it (the subarachnoid space). This could happen from a blow to the head or a strong fall. Treatments may include a drainage tube to the brain, surgery, or special medications.[4]
    • Subdural hematomas are when the veins that cover the brain are stretched too thin and torn, causing bleeding on the brain. These are most common in the elderly, but can be caused by repeated head injuries, alcoholism, and frequent use of blood thinners. Treatment involves surgery and medication.[5]
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    Learn a few of the most common infections. Infections are yet another category of nervous system disorders, and are caused by dangerous bacteria and viruses entering the body, and in the case of the nervous system, surrounding the brain. Bacterial infections are treatable, while viral infections currently have no known treatments.
    • Meningitis occurs when the membrane around the brain and spine becomes infected and inflamed, and can be recognized by searing headaches and a locked neck. Bacterial meningitis is treated with antibiotics and cortisone, while viral meningitis can only be treated with bed rest and pain medications.[6]
    • Encephalitis is a viral infection of the brain, which causes it to swell up. It has symptoms similar to meningitis, including intense head pain, locked neck, seizures, and vomiting. Treatment includes corticosteroids and pain relieving medication.[7]
    • Epidural abscess is an infection of the area between the bones of the spine and skull and the membrane covering the brain. It is most often caused by a variant of the staph infection, but can be caused by other bacteria that spread through the blood. This infection is treated with surgery and medication.[8]
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    Study the primary structural disorders. Structural disorders are a variant of nervous system disorders characterized by changes or damages to the structure of the body (bones, nerves, muscles, etc.). These disorders can be either genetic or the result of damage later in life. Therefore, treatment varies significantly between each disorder.
    • Bell’s palsy is a structural disorder known by a sudden paralysis or loss of muscle control on only one side of the face. Doctors aren’t quite sure what causes its onset, but it can be recognized by loss of muscle control/feeling, inability to taste things, drooling, eye problems, and sound sensitivity. There is no treatment for Bell’s palsy; it will go away on its own after 1-2 months.[9]
    • Carpal tunnel disorder occurs when the nerve that runs down the arm is pinched in the wrist, and when not genetic, is typically from long-term repetitive movements. Carpal tunnel is treated with many different options from physical therapy, medication, and surgery depending on the severity of the disorder.[10]
    • Peripheral neuropathy is a disorder characterized by loss of feeling and numbness in the hands and feet of the body as the result of nerve damage. It is most often caused by diabetes, but can also be the result of alcoholism, certain infections, and tumors that affect the nerves. The disorder often goes away on its own, but is treated with pain-relieving medications and nerve stimulation therapies.[11]
    • Cervical spondylosis is a type of bone spur/growth that develops on the cervical spine, which presses down on the nerve roots. Severe arthritis, obesity, and lack of exercise can all cause this disorder. Physical therapy and certain prescription drugs are used to treat this disorder.[12]
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    Learn the functional disorders of the nervous system. Functional disorders are those relating to the nervous system, but for which no physiological cause can be found. These disorders typically arise in the brain, and treatment is very different for each.
    • Epilepsy is a disorder characterized by chronic seizures as the result of disturbed nerve cell activity inside the brain. In order to be diagnosed with epilepsy, you must experience at least two unprovoked seizures. Epilepsy is treated primarily with anti-seizure medication.
    • Neuralgia is nerve damage along the entire length of the nerve, causing regular touch along the nerve path to be felt as severe pain. The cause of this disorder is not yet known by doctors, but it is treated with medication, physical therapy, and nerve blocks.[13]
    • Dizziness is one of the most common functional disorders, and is known by a feeling of lightheadedness and vertigo. The causes of dizziness vary significantly from case to case, and therefore each has its own specific treatment.[14]
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    Study the degenerative disorders. Degenerative disorders are nervous system disorders that start slowly and get increasingly worse over time. Degenerative disorders often have no cure, and can be the cause of death over an extended period of time.
    • Parkinson’s disease is marked by loss of muscle control causing shaking, stiffness, and slowness of movement. Parkinson’s is primarily genetic, but certain rare environmental factors may be at fault as well. There is no cure, but there are multiple medications which can help slow its progression.[15]
    • Multiple sclerosis is a joint immune/nervous system disorder, in which your body’s own immune system attacks and eats the covering of your nerves. The symptoms vary depending on the severity, and can include numbness, tremors, loss of vision, halting movements, and slurred speech. There is no cure for the illness, and is treated with medication to control pain and to slow its progression.[16]
    • Alzheimers is a disorder which causes permanent damage to the brain, and loss of memory and basic functioning skills. The cause for Alzheimer's isn’t clear, but it seems to be at least partially genetic. There is no cure for the illness, but there are currently four medications being used to help stop the profession of the illness.[17]


  • This is not a comprehensive list of disorders, and the information presented should not be used in trying to diagnose a person unless you are a medical professional.

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Categories: Neurological Disorders