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What Are Neurological Disorders? - Symptoms, Definition & Types

Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that there are more than 600 different kinds of neurological disorders? Learn more about the different types of neurological disorders and their symptoms from examples.

Definition

Suppose that you are jogging with a friend when you notice numbness on the right side of your body. Your friend continues to jog ahead while you are unable to run. You try to call out for help, but you are suddenly unable to speak. Your vision becomes cloudy and you experience the most painful headache that you have ever had. Unable to stand anymore, you collapse on the ground.

When you wake up in a hospital bed, your doctor informs you that you have experienced a stroke, which is a neurological disorder caused by the lack of oxygen in certain parts of the brain.

Neurological disorders are those that involve impairments in the nervous system. The nervous system coordinates all of the body's movements and functions. We can think of the nervous system as our body's command center. Without it, we would not be able to eat, walk, talk, move, or function at all.

The nervous system consists of the:

  • Brain
  • Spinal cord
  • Nerves that run throughout your body
  • Muscles

An impairment in any one of these areas can lead to a neurological disorder.

Symptoms

Although the symptoms of a neurological disorder can vary based on the condition, the following symptoms are common among most of the neurological disorders:

  • Trouble speaking
  • Numbness or tingling in a single extremity or on one side of the body
  • Tremors
  • Inability to walk or sudden loss of balance
  • Trouble with basic bodily functions, such as swallowing or breathing
  • Trouble completing mental tasks, such as memory loss or difficulty learning
  • Weakness
  • Rigid muscles
  • Changes in mood, personality, or behaviors
  • Trouble regulating functions that are usually involuntary, such as excessive blinking

Types

There are over 600 different types of neurological disorders. They can be broken into the following categories:

  • Cerebrovascular / stroke: These disorders are caused by impairments in the blood vessels that transmit to the brain. Includes stroke.
  • Degenerative diseases: These disorders are a result of the death or damage of nerve cells. Includes Parkinson's disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.
  • Seizure disorders: These disorders happen when the brain sends out the wrong electrical signals. Includes epilepsy.
  • Headache disorders: The most common type of neurological disorder, characterized by pain in the head. It can be a result of stress or several other physical and mental conditions. Includes migraines and tension-type headache (TTH).
  • Infectious diseases: These disorders are caused by viral or bacterial infections in the nervous system. Includes neurosarcoidosis and meningitis.
  • Genetic neurological disorders: These are a result of abnormalities in our genes. Includes Huntington's disease and muscular dystrophy.
  • Movement disorders: These disorders are characterized by impairments in the ability to control movement. Includes restless legs syndrome and Wilson disease.
  • Demyelinating diseases: These disorders are characterized by damage to the myelin sheath, which protects the nerves that carry messages throughout the body. Includes multiple sclerosis.
  • Neuromuscular diseases: These disorders involve impairment in the nerves that control voluntary muscles, i.e. your legs and arms. Includes spinal muscular atrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
  • Neuro-oncology: These disorders are cancers in the nervous system. Includes brain stem glioma and tumors of the medulla.

Neurological conditions can also be the result of malnutrition, brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries. It is also important to note that these types of neurological disorders are not official medical classifications. There is also overlap in the types. For example, Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder, but it also affects your movement.

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