Nervous System Disease

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Nervous system disease can affect the brain and the spinal cord, which together make up the central nervous system (called central nervous system disease), or it can affect the nerves of the peripheral nervous system (called peripheral neuropathy).

Disease of the central nervous system has the potential to be extremely serious, since damage to the brain or spinal cord could greatly impact the body’s ability to properly function. Examples include meningitis, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Tourette’s and multiple sclerosis.

Central nervous system diseases can be caused by trauma, bacterial or viral infections, cysts, cancer, tumors, genetic combinations, trauma, lesions, degeneration or stroke.

Peripheral neuropathy may be caused damage to a single nerve or multiple nerves. Usually the condition involves compression of the nerve(s), which causes tingling sensations, a “pins and needles” feeling, or numbness. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy have been identified, each with its own characteristic set of symptoms, pattern of development and prognosis. Impaired function and symptoms depend on the type of nerves —motor, sensory or autonomic — that are damaged.

Nervous system disease pain may include headaches, weakened muscles, inflammation and pinched nerves. Additional symptoms might include dizziness, lack of sensation, nausea, fever, fatigue, vomiting, stiffness, urinary incontinence, dementia, paralysis, inability to communicate, tremors, rigidity, and others.

Treatment for nervous system disease pain can include therapy, such as TENS therapy (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), in which electrodes are placed on the skin to deliver a gentle electric current.

Medications can also be used, including over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-seizure medications, capsaicin cream, lidocaine patches and antidepressants.

The Mayo Clinic stresses that while the primary goal of treatment for nervous system diseases is to manage the condition causing the neuropathy (since if the underlying cause is resolved, the symptoms usually improve on their own), a secondary goal is to relieve the often painful symptoms for the patient.