The following diseases are afflictions of the nervous system, which includes the brain. This means that apart from impairing our cognitive abilities, they can also affect our ability to perform simple and even involuntary movements. These disorders have no known cures to date, though medications may be administered to alleviate their symptoms. Thus, it’s important to know their early warning signs and differentiate them from mild and temporary conditions or manifestations of tiredness or lack of sleep.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. 5 million Americans suffer from it, and 200,000 suffer from early-onset Alzheimer’s. The cause is still unknown, but genetics play a part in an individual’s risk for contracting the disease. More than 50 percent of Alzheimer’s patients are women, and you are more likely to get Alzheimer’s if your mother has it.
While cases of the disease are more common among those aged 65 and up, it’s also possible to get the disease as early as one’s 30s.
The first part of our brains that the disease affects is responsible for learning new information. Because of this, patients have difficulty learning and remembering new things.
Alzheimer’s starts with symptoms that can be very easy to brush off as normal occasional forgetfulness. But as the disease progresses, patients begin to forget even important details about themselves, such as their personal and family histories. This is when you’ll know that it’s more serious.
But apart from just impairing our memory, Alzheimer’s also affects our behavior and our capacity to carry out everyday tasks – especially in its later stages. Patients with very advanced cases of the disease have difficulty carrying out conversations. In such cases, these patients should be committed to Alzheimer’s care or memory care facilities.
Doctors recommend healthy habits such as regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet to lower the risk of contracting the disease. They highlight the importance of having both mental and physical exercise. Apart from going on walks or going to the gym, at-risk individuals should also engage in activities that stimulate their brains – such as playing crossword puzzles, chess, or sudoku.
One particular form of exercise that works both body and mind is dancing. This is because dancing requires participants to observe and remember patterns in choreography.
This is rooted in the nervous system and affects movement. It begins with barely perceptible tremors on the one hand. As it progresses, movements begin to slow, muscles stiffen, and speech slurs. Patients have difficulty performing simple movements such as writing, speaking, and even maintaining a good posture. There might also be an absence of or difficulty to perform involuntary movements such as blinking or swinging one’s arms while walking.
Patients may also be vulnerable to problems in their digestive and excretory systems. Slowed muscle movement means that the body will have difficulty swallowing and digesting food, leading to constipation. Loss of muscle control in the urethra can also lead to difficulty urinating or even spontaneous urination.
In later stages, the disease also begins to affect the brain by impairing cognitive ability. Patients may experience memory loss or dementia.
Some factors for developing Parkinson’s disease include age. Patients are typically 60 years old and up, with the disease rarely affecting younger adults. Men are also more likely to have the disease as compared to women. A person’s risk also increases if their relatives have had Parkinson’s. Lastly, prolonged exposure to certain toxins such as those found in pesticides and herbicides is also linked to an increased risk for the disease.
While Parkinson’s is still incurable today, doctors administer patients with medications to alleviate their symptoms.
This is a disease caused by the body’s attacking itself. Multiple sclerosis (MS) occurs when the immune system attacks the myelin, a protective layer surrounding nerves in our brain and spinal cord. This, in turn, disrupts communication between our brain and other parts of our body. This causes nerve damage that can range from mild to severe and permanent manifestations.
Symptoms include weakness or numbness in the limbs, which can impair one’s ability to walk or even stand up. As with Parkinson’s disease, slurred speech is also a common manifestation in MS. It also affects vision, with patients experiencing blurred vision or color distortion.
As we get older, we become more vulnerable to certain diseases. It’s not just viral diseases we have to worry about, but neurological ones too. These are often incurable and can be debilitating, though patients can be taken into centers for specialized care and administered medications to alleviate symptoms. The best that we can do is pay attention to any early warning signs in ourselves and our loved ones.