Diseases & Conditions

Nervous System Disorders

Overview of Nervous System Disorders

What is the nervous system?

The nervous system is a complex, sophisticated system that regulates and coordinates body activities. It is made up of two major divisions, including the following:

  • Central nervous system. This consists of the brain and spinal cord.

  • Peripheral nervous system. This consists of all other neural elements.

Illustration of the nervous system
The Nervous System (Click to Enlarge)

In addition to the brain and spinal cord, principal organs of the nervous system include the following:

  • Eyes

  • Ears

  • Sensory organs of taste

  • Sensory organs of smell

  • Sensory receptors located in the skin, joints, muscles, and other parts of the body

What are some disorders of the nervous system?

The nervous system is vulnerable to various disorders. It can be damaged by the following:

  • Trauma

  • Infections

  • Degeneration

  • Structural defects

  • Tumors

  • Blood flow disruption

  • Autoimmune disorders

Disorders of the nervous system

Disorders of the nervous system may involve the following:

  • Vascular disorders, such as stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), subarachnoid hemorrhage, subdural hemorrhage and hematoma, and extradural hemorrhage

  • Infections, such as meningitis, encephalitis, polio, and epidural abscess

  • Structural disorders, such as brain or spinal cord injury, Bell's palsy, cervical spondylosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, brain or spinal cord tumors, peripheral neuropathy, and Guillain-Barré syndrome

  • Functional disorders, such as headache, epilepsy, dizziness, and neuralgia

  • Degeneration, such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington's chorea, and Alzheimer's disease

Signs and symptoms of nervous system disorders

The following are the most common general signs and symptoms of a nervous system disorder. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Persistent or sudden onset of a headache

  • A headache that changes or is different

  • Loss of feeling or tingling

  • Weakness or loss of muscle strength

  • Sudden loss of sight or double vision

  • Memory loss

  • Impaired mental ability

  • Lack of coordination

  • Muscle rigidity

  • Tremors and seizures

  • Back pain which radiates to the feet, toes, or other parts of the body

  • Muscle wasting and slurred speech

The symptoms of a nervous system disorder may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Doctors who treat nervous system disorders

Doctors who treat nervous system disorders may have to spend a lot of time working with the patient before making a probable diagnosis of the specific condition. Many times, this involves performing numerous tests to eliminate other conditions, so that the probable diagnosis can be made.

Neurology. The branch of medicine that manages nervous system disorders is called neurology. The medical doctors who treat nervous system disorders are called neurologists.

Neurological surgery. The branch of medicine that provides surgical intervention for nervous system disorders is called neurosurgery, or neurological surgery. Surgeons who operate as a treatment team for nervous system disorders are called neurological surgeons or neurosurgeons.

Rehabilitation for neurological disorders. The branch of medicine that provides rehabilitative care for patients with nervous system disorders is called physical medicine and rehabilitation. Doctors who work with patients in the rehabilitation process are called physiatrists.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fincannon, Joy, RN, MN
Online Medical Reviewer: Weisbart, Ed, M.D.
Last Annual Review Date: 6/16/2012
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.