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Neurological Conditions

Parkinsons Disease

In a healthy brain, certain nerve cells produce the chemical dopamine. Dopamine transmits signals throughout the brain to coordinate smooth muscles movement. In Parkinson's patients, these dopamine-producing cells are damaged, dead, or have otherwise degenerated. This causes the nerve cells to fire erratically, leaving patients unable to control their movements.

Symptoms usually show up in one or more of four ways:

  • tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face
  • rigidity, or stiffness of limbs and trunk
  • slowness of movement (known as bradykinesia)
  • impaired balance and coordination.

Early symptoms of the disease may be subtle and gradual. As the disease progresses, the shaking which affects the majority of PD patients, may begin to interfere with daily activities. Other symptoms may include depression and other emotional changes; difficulty in swallowing, chewing, and speaking; urinary problems or constipation; skin problems; and sleep disruptions. Full-blown Parkinson's can be crippling or disabling.

Parkinsons is both chronic, meaning it persists over a long period of time, and progressive, meaning its symptoms grow worse over time. Although some people become severely disabled, others experience only minor motor disruptions. Tremor is the major symptom for some patients, while for others tremor is only a minor complaint and other symptoms are more troublesome.  No one can predict which symptoms will affect an individual patient, and the intensity of the symptoms also varies from person to person.

Parkinsons Treatment

At present, there is no cure for PD, but a variety of medications provide dramatic relief from the symptoms.  Usually, patients are given levodopa combined with carbidopa.  Carbidopa delays the conversion of levodopa into dopamine until it reaches the brain.  Nerve cells can use levodopa to make dopamine and replenish the brain's dwindling supply.  Bradykinesia and rigidity respond best, while tremor may be only marginally reduced. Problems with balance and other symptoms may not be alleviated at all.  Anticholinergics may help control tremor and rigidity. 

In some cases, surgery may be appropriate if the disease doesn't respond to drugs. A therapy called deep brain stimulation (DBS) has now been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, disabling disease of the central nervous system. The disease causes inflammation, destruction, and scarring of the sheath that covers nerve fibers (called myelin) in the brain and spinal cord. As a result, electrical signals from the brain are slowed or blocked from reaching the eyes, muscles, and other parts of the body.  Some symptoms include:

Multiple Sclerosis Causes

Malfunction of the body's immune system seems to be the cause of MS, but the exact cause of this malfunction is not known.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for MS include:
Sex: female
Age: 16-40 years old
Exposure to certain viruses
Genetic predisposition
Northern European descent, especially Scandinavian
Growing up in a colder climate, as opposed to a tropical climate

Symptoms of MS:

  • weakness of one or more extremities
  • paralysis of one or more extremities
  • tremor of one or more extremities
  • muscle atrophy
  • movement, dysfunctional - slowly progressive; beginning in the legs
  • numbness or abnormal sensation in any area
  • facial pain
  • extremity pain
  • loss of vision, typically affects one eye at a time
  • double vision
  • eye discomfort
  • uncontrollable rapid eye movements
  • eye symptoms worsen on movement of the eyes
  • decreased coordination
  • loss of balance
  • decreased ability to control small or intricate movements
  • walking/gait abnormalities
  • muscle spasms (especially in the legs)
  • dizziness
  • vertigo
  • difficulty to begin urinating
  • strong urge to urinate (urinary urgency)
  • frequent need to urinate (urinary frequency)
  • incontinence
  • decreased memory
  • decreased spontaneity
  • decreased judgment
  • loss of ability to think abstractly
  • loss of ability to generalize
  • depression

Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

The goals of MS treatment are to relieve symptoms, prevent relapses, and slow disease progression. Although there is still no cure for MS, there are various strategies available to modify the disease course, manage symptoms, and improve the quality of life.

Medications

Medications may include:
Corticosteroids or immunosuppressants– to reduce nerve tissue inflammation and shorten MS flare-ups
Beta interferon – an anti-viral agent used to suppress the immune system
Glatiramer acetate – to help prevent MS relapses by blocking the immune system from attacking myelin

Lifestyle Modifications may include:

  • Regular moderate exercise with your doctor's permission
  • Physical therapy to help maintain muscle strength and tone, dexterity and walking ability
  • Massage
  • Healthful diet, one that is low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • High fiber diet to prevent constipation problems
  • Stress reduction techniques
Causes Of Constipation by Kristy Annely

Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a general term referring to disorders of peripheral nerves. The peripheral nervous system is made up of the nerves that branch out of the spinal cord to all parts of the body.  Your nerves provide communication between your brain and your muscles, skin, internal organs and blood vessels. When damaged, your nerves can't communicate properly, and that miscommunication causes symptoms such as pain or numbness.
Peripheral neuropathy can be associated with poor nutrition, a number of diseases, and pressure or trauma. Many people suffer from the disorder without ever identifying the cause. Peripheral neuropathy often affects people with diabetes and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Certain vitamin deficiencies, some medications and alcoholism can also damage peripheral nerves.

Peripheral neuropathy can be broadly categorized by the type of nerve that has been damaged. The peripheral nervous system is made up of three types of nerves:

  • motor nerves (responsible for voluntary movement)
  • sensory nerves (responsible for sensing temperature, pain, touch, and limb positioning)
  • autonomic nerves (responsible for involuntary functions such as breathing, blood pressure, sexual function, digestion)

Peripheral neuropathy can also be classified by where it occurs in the body. It also can be categorized by cause, such as diabetic neuropathy and nutritional neuropathy. When a cause cannot be identified, the condition is called idiopathic neuropathy.

Risk Factors and Causes

Causes of peripheral neuropathy include physical injury (trauma) to a nerve, tumors, toxins, autoimmune responses, nutritional deficiencies, alcoholism, and vascular and metabolic disorders. Peripheral neuropathies are caused by systemic disease, trauma from external agents, or infections or autoimmune disorders affecting nerve tissue. Inherited forms of peripheral neuropathy are caused by inborn mistakes in the genetic code or by new genetic mutations. Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by disease; nerve compression, entrapment, or laceration; exposure to toxins; or inflammation. In many cases, especially in people over the age of 60, no cause can be determined.
Peripheral neuropathy affects at least 20 million people in the United States. Nearly 60% of all people with diabetes suffer from peripheral neuropathy.

Neuropathy Treatment

Treating the underlying condition may relieve some cases of peripheral neuropathy. In other cases, treatment of peripheral neuropathy may focus on managing pain. Peripheral nerves have a remarkable ability to regenerate themselves, and new treatments for peripheral neuropathy using nerve growth factors or gene therapy may offer even better chances for recovery in the future.

 
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