Common Neurological Conditions

Advice on your treatment or care should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined you or is familiar with your medical history. This information is provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rapidly progressive neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. In ALS, both the upper motor neurons and the lower motor neurons degenerate or die, ceasing to send messages to muscles. Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, waste away and twitch. Learn more 

Alzheimer’s disease is an age-related, non-reversible brain disorder that develops over a period of years. Initially, people experience memory loss and confusion, which may be mistaken for the kinds of memory changes that are sometimes associated with normal aging. However, the symptoms of AD gradually lead to behavior and personality changes, a decline in cognitive abilities such as decision-making and language skills and problems recognizing family and friends. Learn more

Arteriovenous malformations are defects of the circulatory system that are generally believed to arise during embryonic or fetal development or soon after birth. Although AVMs can develop in many different sites, those located in the brain or spinal cord can have especially widespread effects on the body. Most people with neurological AVMs experience few, if any, significant symptoms. Learn more

Back pain can be acute or chronic. Acute or short-term low back pain generally lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Most acute back pain is the result of trauma to the lower back or a disorder such as arthritis. Pain from trauma may be caused by a sports injury, work around the house or in the garden or a sudden jolt such as a car accident or other stress on spinal bones and tissues. Symptoms may range from muscle ache to shooting or stabbing pain, limited flexibility and range of motion or an inability to stand straight. Chronic back pain is pain that persists for more than 3 months. Learn more

Bell’s palsy is a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to one of the facial nerves. It is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Generally, Bell’s palsy affects only one of the paired facial nerves and one side of the face, however, in rare cases, it can affect both sides. Symptoms of Bell’s palsy usually begin suddenly and reach their peak within 48 hours. Learn more

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition caused by compression of a key nerve in the wrist. It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. Symptoms usually start gradually, with pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm. Learn more

Chiari malformations are structural defects in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. When the indented bony space at the lower rear of the skull is smaller than normal, the cerebellum and brainstem can be pushed downward. The resulting pressure on the cerebellum can block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (the liquid that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord) and can cause a range of symptoms including dizziness, muscle weakness, numbness, vision problems, headache and problems with balance and coordination. Learn more 

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition. The key symptom of CRPS is continuous, intense pain out of proportion to the severity of the injury, which gets worse rather than better over time. CRPS most often affects one of the arms, legs, hands, or feet. Often the pain spreads to include the entire arm or leg. Typical features include dramatic changes in the color and temperature of the skin over the affected limb or body part, accompanied by intense burning pain, skin sensitivity, sweating and swelling. Learn more

The dystonias are movement disorders in which sustained muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures. The movements, which are involuntary and sometimes painful, may affect a single muscle; a group of muscles such as those in the arms, legs, or neck or the entire body. Early symptoms may include deterioration in handwriting, foot cramps or a dragging foot after running or walking some distance. Learn more

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The first symptoms of this disorder include varying degrees of weakness or tingling sensations in the legs. In many instances, the weakness and abnormal sensations spread to the arms and upper body. Learn more

Headaches are of four types: vascular, muscle contraction (tension), traction, and inflammatory. The most common type of vascular headache is migraine. Migraine headaches are usually characterized by severe pain on one or both sides of the head, an upset stomach, and, at times, disturbed vision. Women are more likely than men to have migraine headaches. After migraine, the most common type of vascular headache is the toxic headache produced by fever. Other kinds of vascular headaches include “cluster” headaches, which cause repeated episodes of intense pain, and headaches resulting from high blood pressure. Muscle contraction headaches appear to involve the tightening or tensing of facial and neck muscles. Traction and inflammatory headaches are symptoms of other disorders, ranging from stroke to sinus infection. Learn more

Motor neuron diseases are a group of progressive neurological disorders that destroy cells that control essential muscle activity such as speaking, walking, breathing and swallowing. Normally, messages from nerve cells in the brain (called upper motor neurons) are transmitted to nerve cells in the brain stem and spinal cord (called lower motor neurons) and from them to particular muscles. When there are disruptions in these signals, the result can be gradual muscle weakening, wasting away and uncontrollable twitching (called fasciculations). Learn more

Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease characterized by varying degrees of weakness of the skeletal (voluntary) muscles of the body. Symptoms vary in type and intensity. The hallmark of myasthenia gravis is muscle weakness that increases during periods of activity and improves after periods of rest. Muscles that control eye and eyelid movements, facial expression, chewing, talking and swallowing are often, but not always, involved. Learn more

Neurofibromatoeses are genetic disorders that cause tumors to grow in the nervous system. The tumors begin in the supporting cells that make up the nerves and the myelin sheath—the thin membrane that envelops and protects the nerves. These disorders cause tumors to grow on nerves and produce other abnormalities such as skin changes and bone deformities. Learn more 

Parkinson’s disease belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders, which are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. The four primary symptoms of PD are tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw and face; rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; bradykinesia, or slowness of movement; and postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination. As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. Learn more

“Parkinson’s Exercise Program” contains suggested activities to help build needed exercise into the daily routine of Parkinson’s Disease patients. The suggestions may also make everyday tasks easier to perform. Learn more 

Peripheral neuropathy describes damage to the peripheral nervous system, which transmits information from the brain and spinal cord to every other part of the body.

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. Learn more

Progressive supranuclear palsy is a rare brain disorder that causes serious and progressive problems with control of gait and balance, along with complex eye movement and thinking problems. One of the classic signs of the disease is an inability to aim the eyes properly, which occurs because of lesions in the area of the brain that coordinates eye movements. Learn more 

Restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them for relief. Individuals affected with the disorder often describe the sensations as throbbing, polling or creeping. The sensations range in severity from uncomfortable to irritating to painful. Learn more 

Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. The first symptoms of TS are almost always noticed in childhood. Some of the more common tics include eye blinking and other vision irregularities, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging and head or shoulder jerking. Learn more 

Tremor is an unintentional, rhythmic, muscle movement involving to-and-fro movements of one or more parts of the body. Most tremors occur in the hands, although they can also affect the arms, head, face, voice, trunk and legs. Learn more 

Trigeminal neuralgia, also called tic douloureux, is a chronic pain condition that causes extreme, sporadic, sudden burning or shock-like face pain. The pain seldom lasts more than a few seconds or a minute or two per episode. The intensity of pain can be physically and mentally incapacitating. TN pain is typically felt on one side of the jaw or cheek. Learn more