The term “neurodegenerative disease” refers to any disease that is the result of the degeneration of nerve cells, the majority of them degenerating in the central nervous system (CNS) of humans. Neurodegeneration has been defined as the abnormal death of neurons, with loss or deterioration of all or part of their cellular structure.
Nerve cells send signals to other neurons through nerve pathways, sending messages about what it is like to be alive and experiencing a sensation, and telling how they feel by releasing neurotransmitters such as Dopamine, Serotonin, Orexins, or Perceptions.
When neurons die or deteriorate, there are different types of symptoms that could occur, such as seizures, loss of consciousness, or in rare cases, death. There are a number of different types of neurodegenerative disease that can affect patients, depending on their respective causes and symptoms.
Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are two common types of neurodegeneration
Both are caused by a genetic mutation affecting dopamine production in the central nervous system of humans, but their specific characteristics and symptoms can vary according to the type of neurodegeneration.
Symptoms may also differ according to the stage of the neurodegenerative disease. Patients with Parkinson’s may experience the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which include
- Difficulty walking
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty swallowing
While those with Alzheimer’s disease may experience
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
- Cognitive problems
For example, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis can cause symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease for its patients, but Parkinson’s itself can be difficult to diagnose since most patients will exhibit a wide range of symptoms in a relatively short period of time.
Huntington’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that usually occurs in younger adults, but can occur at any age. The symptoms include
- Progressive loss of movement
- Loss of consciousness
This type of neurodegeneration cannot be diagnosed using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI Scan) and other non-invasive techniques, but when symptoms are present, doctors can conduct brain scans or perform genetic tests.
Another neurodegenerative disease is fatal familial insomnia(FFI)
This condition is very similar to epilepsy in that a family member who may have insomnia can develop the condition as well, but it is much more serious. The symptoms include hallucinations, depression, hallucinations and delusions, loss of consciousness, unconsciousness, seizures, and death.
If left untreated, epilepsy and fatal familial insomnia can lead to seizures or other potentially lethal forms of neurodegeneration. Some of these other deadly forms of neurodegenerations include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Seizures are common in epilepsy, where seizures occur because of abnormally high blood pressure, seizures due to hyperactive brain chemicals, or both. In fatal familial insomnia, seizures may occur because of a lack of oxygen, a heart condition, or a buildup of fluid in the brain.
However, seizures are not always the first sign of neurodegeneration, as the signs of epilepsy, dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s may precede the onset of seizures. With the exception of seizures, epilepsy is a disabling disease and it cannot be cured by surgery.
However, epilepsy can be treated by taking medications to control it, which can prolong life and lessen the impact of the symptoms. Epilepsy can be caused by a genetic disorder or a neurological condition that impairs the patient’s ability to control seizures.
Although the exact genetic causes of epilepsy are unknown, some of the common genetic conditions causing epilepsy are inherited. Epilepsy occurs in one part of the brain, which is responsible for the communication between brain cells.
When this part of the brain is damaged, communication between brain cells is impaired and the brain is unable to produce sufficient chemicals necessary for brain functions. There is also a build-up of chemicals in the brain that cause seizures and an imbalance in electrical impulses.
Seizures are caused by excessive activity in the brain that is due to abnormal signals from brain cells
Seizures are often caused by abnormal brain activity, such as hallucinations, delusions, or seizures triggered by light, sound, or pain. When seizures occur, they can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Patients experience pain, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness if the seizures are too severe.
Seizure frequency can vary greatly depending on the type of seizure that is occurring. Some types of epilepsy include focal seizures, in which the patient is awake, which can result in pain in the face or extremities, absence seizures, which may occur during sleep, and seizures that are not associated with muscle spasms, which may require the use of a mask or mouthpiece.
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