It’s thought that around one billion people around the world have some form of neurological disorder, with around 6.8 million people dying globally every year from their condition. There are lots of types of neurological disorders, ranging from epilepsy to dementia, but milder conditions such as migraines are also described as neurological problems.
Depending on the type of neurological condition you have, it could affect your day to day life and prevent you from doing your usual activities. At their most severe, neurological problems can result in the need for professional medical care as a result of a loss of independence, but treatments are available for most conditions. The faster you are diagnosed, the quicker treatment can start and the better the outcome can be, but this depends on you recognising the signs of a neurological disease and knowing when to speak to your GP.
In this blog, we’re going to talk more about the common signs of neurological conditions and when you should consider speaking to a medical professional.
What is a Neurological Problem?
Firstly, it’s important to understand what is meant by the term ‘neurological problem/disorder/condition’. In essence, a neurological condition is a disease that affects the brain, spinal cord, and/or central nervous system. There are lots of types of neurological conditions that range in severity and symptoms and that affect the brain in different ways. Some are life threatening, but others are manageable with the right treatment.
What causes a neurological problem can vary. Some are caused by a mixture of environmental factors (e.g. lifestyle choices such as smoking or being overweight), whilst others may be inherited. Sometimes, an injury can cause damage to the nerve cells, brain and spinal cord, but other times, an underlying condition is the cause.
For example, some conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, are caused by excess protein build ups in the brain (risk factors for this include smoking, drinking, and being overweight), whereas other conditions, like multiple sclerosis, are autoimmune diseases caused by problems within the immune system (risk factors are a mixture of genetic and environmental). With this in mind, there is no one cause for neurological medical conditions, but in some cases, risks can be reduced by ensuring a healthy lifestyle.
Types of Neurological Disorders
It’s thought that there are more than 600 types of neurological conditions. They are split into four main categories:
- Sudden onset conditions: These are conditions brought on by trauma or injuries, such as an acquired brain injury (ABI) or a spinal cord injury.
- Intermittent and unpredictable conditions: These are conditions that may incur periods of relapse, such as chronic fatigue syndrome (ME), multiple sclerosis (MS), or epilepsy.
- Progressive conditions: These are conditions that get progressively worse over time, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, and MS in its later stages.
- Stable neurological conditions: These are conditions that remain stable but may require different care needs as a result of things like ageing. Cerebral palsy in adults and post-polio syndrome are examples of stable neurological conditions.
Some of the most common neurological disorders you’re likely to come across or hear about include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Muscular dystrophy
- Bell’s palsy
- Acute spinal cord injury
There are lots of other types of neurological conditions, but many of these overlap in terms of the symptoms they present.
Signs of a Neurological Disease
There are lots of signs that you or a person close to you is experiencing a neurological disorder. In the case of sudden onset conditions, it will be apparent because the condition will come about almost immediately after an injury is sustained, but most other conditions have progressive symptoms.
Mental/emotional symptoms of a neurological disorder
Some of the most noticeable symptoms of neurological disorders are emotional or mental, meaning you might not notice physical symptoms at first, but instead be aware of other changes that are happening. Some common mental and emotional symptoms include:
- Mood changes: This includes things like sudden mood swings and intensified emotions such as sadness or anger
- Delusions/hallucinations: This includes seeing, hearing or feeling things that aren’t really there, although they will feel extremely real to you
- Depression: Commonly associated with a number of neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia
- Anxiety: Delusions and hallucinations can sometimes lead to feelings of anxiety, or anxiety can be brought on by itself as a result of a neurological problem
- Cognitive decline: Decreased alertness and issues with concentrating, problem solving, reasoning, thinking and memory
It’s common for people with neurological conditions to experience multiple symptoms at the same time, but you might only experience one. Emotional and mental changes might appear by themselves, or they might be accompanied by physical symptoms.
Physical symptoms of a neurological problem
There are lots of different physical signs that neurological conditions can take on, including:
- Pain or inflammation around the body that isn’t the result of an injury or physical strain
- Weakness in muscles
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle stiffness
- Sensation issues e.g. numbness or tingling across the body
- Difficulty walking
- Balance problems
- Poor posture
- Coordination issues
- Speech problems
Like with emotional and mental symptoms, you might experience one or multiple symptoms.
When to See a Doctor
Most neurological conditions cannot be cured and many are lifelong disorders, but the majority can be managed with the use of different medications and therapies. The earlier you see a GP, the better, so if you notice any of the above symptoms and are worried because they appear out of the blue (e.g. frequent headaches), make sure to get an appointment with a doctor. If your GP thinks you could have a neurological condition, they will refer you to a specialist neurologist who will carry out assessments, tests and scans to determine what might be causing your symptoms. Odds are it’s nothing serious as the symptoms of neurological conditions often mirror milder conditions, but it’s always best to get checked out.
Diagnosing Neurological Conditions
For most disorders, there isn’t a specific test that can be done to diagnose a condition, but rather multiple tests are done to rule out potential issues that it’s not. This means you might undergo a physical examination to assess your mobility and any physical symptoms, and you might also be asked about your medical history to see if there’s a chance your condition could be genetic. You might be sent for blood tests or have the likes of a lumbar puncture done, and you could even go for an MRI or a CT scan to see if there’s any identifiable brain or spinal cord damage.
Diagnosing and Treating Neurological Disorders at Dementech
At Dementech Neurosciences, we offer a private neurology service to people with or who suspect they might have a neurological disorder. We have a team of specialists who are able to effectively diagnose and treat a range of conditions, including dementia, Parkinson’s disease and MS. As we are a private clinic, our patients are not subject to long waiting lists. We endeavour to offer all patients a same-day consultation with a neurologist, and we carry out tests within 48 hours.
You could go from an initial consultation to a diagnosis in less than a week, allowing us to put in place a comprehensive, multifaceted treatment plan to better your outlook and manage your symptoms. If you think you might have a neurological condition and don’t want to wait to see a specialist, contact us today to arrange an appointment.