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Terms for Conditions Affecting the Nerves

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  • 0:02 Conditions Affecting Nerves
  • 0:37 ALS & GBS
  • 2:36 Cranial Nerves and…
  • 3:56 Tetanus
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson discusses several different conditions that affect nerve cells and nerves in general. These include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, tetatanus, sciatica, trigeminal neuralgia, and Bell's palsy.

Conditions Affecting Nerves

Nerve cells and nerves (collections of nerve fibers) are like data cables that transmit signals and information from one point in the body to another. Certainly, this communication process happens within a structure like the brain. But, your brain also has lots of data cables that send out information to the rest of your body, including the face, leg muscles and so on, so they can sense things or move their parts.

Sometimes, these nerves and nerve cells are affected by diseases that make life difficult or painful for people. Let's take a look at some of the conditions affecting different nerves throughout the body.

ALS & GBS

The very first one I'd like to discuss is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative disease that results in the loss of motor neurons. ALS is also called Lou Gehrig's disease. Motor neurons are special nerve cells that are responsible for controlling movement. You know how a car motor is responsible for movement of a car, motor neurons in people work the same.

The fibers of motor neurons eventually course through the peripheral nerves to reach the muscles of locomotion that they innervate and signal to move. The peripheral nerves are the ones lying outside the brain and spinal cord.

In ALS, these nerve cells die. What happens when your car's motor quits on you? It stops moving, right? Well, in ALS, the nerves that motor neuron fibers course through cannot send signals to the muscles they control. Ergo, the muscle cannot function properly, and this is why people with ALS have difficulty walking, speaking, swallowing and, eventually, breathing.

Peripheral nerves are more directly affected by another disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), an immune-mediated disorder that affects the peripheral nervous system. Here, our own body's defense force - the immune system - attacks the myelin sheath of peripheral nerves of our own body! The myelin sheath is like the outer insulating layer around a wire or cord that helps the wire conduct its signal more efficiently. Except this sheath surrounds nerve fibers, including those coursing through a nerve.

And so, in this condition, this would be like you destroying the insulation around your own precious computer and phone cables at home. Why would you do that to yourself? You know it's going to cause everything to malfunction!

The end results of this autoimmune attack are similar in some ways to ALS, in that people with GBS have difficulty walking, breathing and swallowing, among other things.

Cranial Nerves and Sciatic Nerve

While so far, we've discussed two conditions that affect nerve cells and nerves in a general sense, there are conditions that affect very specific nerves in the body.

Bell's palsy is the temporary paralysis of the seventh cranial nerve, aka the facial nerve. Owing to the function of this nerve, people with Bell's palsy can experience weakness and paralysis on, usually, one side of the face. The eyelid and corner of the mouth on the affected side can droop. People may also drool and experience diminished taste sensations.

Trigeminal neuralgia is another problem affecting a specific nerve. It is a condition that affects the fifth (trigeminal) cranial nerve and results in sharp, stabbing, pain that affects the cheek, lips, gums and chin on the affected side of the face.

There's also a condition affecting a nerve called the sciatic nerve. This nerve courses through and innervates the majority of the lower limbs. It can be affected by a well-known condition called sciatica, pain radiating along the course of the sciatic nerve, which commonly manifests itself as pain in the lower back, buttocks and back of the leg, sometimes the foot as well. Such pain stems from the inflammation of, pressure on or injury to the sciatic nerve.

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