The human brain has 100 billion neurons or nerve cells, and each neuron connects to thousands of other neurons. This complex network allows us to process information, remember things, create memories, and even control our bodies. Unfortunately, these connections can also experience problems, says Ruham Nisany.
Neurological disorders are common conditions that affect the brain. They range from minor issues such as headaches and migraines to serious illnesses such as dementia and epilepsy. Knowing what they look like can help you spot them early.
A stroke is when blood flow to a part of the brain is blocked or reduced. Strokes occur when a clot forms inside an artery (blood vessel) and blocks blood flow. This causes damage to the brain tissue supplied by that artery.
According to the American Heart Association, strokes kill over 130,000 Americans yearly. About 795,000 new strokes happen every year. The risk of having a stroke increases with age. Symptoms of a stroke include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body.
- Trouble speaking or understanding speech.
- Vision problems such as double vision.
- Dizziness or loss of balance.
- Headache, nausea or vomiting.
There are two types of strokes: Ischemic (or thrombotic) and Hemorrhagic.
These strokes occur when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain. When blood flow is blocked, oxygen and glucose cannot reach the brain. Without these essentials, brain cells begin to die. The result is damage to the brain’s nerves and surrounding tissue. Symptoms of an ischemic stroke include sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding language, dizziness, headache, double vision, nausea or vomiting, seizures, and fainting.
These strokes occur when a blood vessel ruptures inside the brain. Blood leaks out of the broken vessel and collects around brain cells. As more blood accumulates, pressure builds up and causes the brain to swell. Swelling puts pressure on nearby brain cells, killing them. The result is damage or destruction of brain tissue. Symptoms of a hemorrhagic stroke include:
- Sudden severe headache.
- Blurred vision.
- Sudden loss of consciousness.
- Sudden severe pain in one area of the head or face.
If you suspect you have had a stroke, and feel any symptoms, don’t wait! Get medical help right away.
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. Seizures occur when brain cells fire out of control, causing muscle contractions, loss of consciousness, and convulsions. These episodes may last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. In some cases, people have had epilepsy since birth, while others develop it later in life. Ruham says there are many different types of epilepsy, each with its symptoms and causes.
- The first step to identifying if someone has epilepsy is to determine whether they have experienced any seizures before. If not, then the person does not have epilepsy.
- However, if they experience seizures, further testing should be done to determine what type of epilepsy they have.
- A doctor will perform a physical examination, ask about their medical history, and conduct various tests to determine if they have epilepsy.
There are two major categories of epilepsy: focal and generalized.
This epilepsy occurs when an abnormal electrical activity starts in a specific brain area. This triggers neurons to become overactive, leading to repeated seizures. When these seizures happen, the patient will lose awareness and may have involuntary movements. The cause of focal epilepsy is often unknown, although genetics play a role.
This epilepsy occurs when the entire brain becomes hyper-excitable. As a result, the brain’s normal function is interrupted. Patients with generalized epilepsy may experience seizures at random times throughout the day. Their seizures may be brief or long-lasting. The cause of generalized epilepsy is often genetic.
Treatment for epilepsy varies depending on the type of epilepsy and the severity of the condition. Medications are commonly prescribed to prevent seizures. Surgery may be performed to remove the focus of the problem.
A headache is a pain felt in the head. Headaches are very common and often go unnoticed or misdiagnosed. They affect millions of people worldwide and can range from mild to severe.
They are caused by pressure on the nerves in the head or neck. The pain usually starts at the back of the head and spreads forward. There are several types of headaches, such as:
- Tension headaches.
- Cluster headaches.
- Sinus headaches.
- Sleep disorders.
How Do You Know If You Have a Neurological Headache?
There are several ways to tell if you have a neurological headache. One way is to look at your symptoms. Ask yourself these questions, says Ruham Nasany:
- Is my headache throbbing?
- Does it feel sharp or dull?
- Does it hurt behind my eyes?
- Does it make me nauseous?
- Does it cause dizziness?
You probably have a neurological headache if you answer yes to any of these questions. Another way to know if you have a neurological migraine is to ask yourself these questions:
- Does my headache last longer than 4 hours?
- Do I experience nausea?
- Does vomiting accompany my headache?
- Are there other symptoms associated with my headache?
Finally, the brain is a powerful organ, and we take it for granted until something goes wrong. Learning to recognize the early signs of neurological disorders will enable you to seek medical treatment sooner, improving your chances of recovery. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor, emphasizes Ruham. They may be able to diagnose the problem and recommend treatment options that will improve your quality of life.