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Understanding Neurodegenerative Disease

Neurodegenerative Disease

Neurodegenerative disease is a medical condition that involves a variety of conditions which in the first place affect the neurons in the brain. Neurons are nerve cells that cannot be replaced when damaged because they normally don’t replace or reproduce themselves.

Neurons communicate with each other to perform the brain’s everyday functions. Because the cells of the brain are so closely connected, disruptions and miscommunications in one area can impair other brain activity, which causes a range of health problems. Neurodegenerative diseases are the most complicated diseases that affect the human brain.

This disease involves incurable conditions that irreversibly and progressively damage and kill nerve cells, causing problems with cognitive functions, emotional regulation, movement, and behavior. 

Many degenerative diseases are associated with aging or get worse during the aging process.

What is the Most Common Neurodegenerative Disease?

Dementias are the most common neurodegenerative disease, with Alzheimer’s representing almost 60 to 70 percent of all dementia cases. The most common neurodegenerative diseases are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Other dementias (Vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Frontotemporal dementia, and Mixed dementia)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • LS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Prion disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Spinal muscular atrophy
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia

Dementia

Dementia is a group of symptoms that involve a severe decline in cognitive functioning, behavioral abilities, and social skills that interferes with a person’s daily life and functioning. The main symptoms of dementia involve memory loss and a decline in communication and language skills, visual perception, and the ability to focus and pay attention. Dementia also impairs a person’s problem-solving, reasoning and judgment, and emotional control.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases in older adults and it is the most common type of progressive dementia. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 24 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory problems and memory loss are typically the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimer’s disease. Nevertheless, the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s may vary from person to person, and they include:

  • Memory loss, especially for the most recent events
  • Difficulty speaking and particularly troubles with finding the right words
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Apathy
  • Behavior changes
  • Vision issues

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease occurs due to the progressive death of neurons in the part of the brain known as Substantia Nigra which causes a dysfunction in the regulation of major brain centers involved in movement control.

The main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease involve:

  • Slowness of movement
  • Resting tremor
  • Rigidity
  • Impaired balance
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Memory loss,
  • Impaired attention and information processing speed

Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is a hereditary disease caused by a genetic defect on chromosome 4. The first symptoms of the illness usually involve behavioral changes, motor disorders, and cognitive deficits such as:

  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Facial grimacing
  • Sudden, rapid jerking movements of the face, arms, legs, and other body parts
  • Impaired walk
  • Uncontrollable body movements
  • Memory difficulties
  • Learning troubles
  • Reasoning and problem-solving issues
  • Flexibility
  • Planning and organization abilities

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that damages the protective sheet (myelin) covering the axons in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. Eventually, multiple sclerosis usually causes permanent damage to the nerves.

The most common signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:

  • Numbness in one or more limbs
  • Motor weakness
  • Tremor, unsteady gait, and lack of coordination
  • Blurry vision
  • Prolonged double vision
  • Visual impairment
  • Ataxia
  • Slurred speech
  • Attention and concentration issues
  • Memory and executive functions
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling or pain in parts of the body

What is the Definition of Neurodegenerative Disease?

Neurodegenerative disease is a term that describes disorders that destroy and kill cells of the central nervous system. Neurodegenerative diseases affect all areas of our functioning, including cognitive function, language and speech, movement, balance, and self-management.

Neurodegenerative disorders are incurable and irreversible and usually get worse over time. They may be caused by:

  • Genetic factors
  • A tumor
  • Stroke

Also, neurodegenerative diseases may develop in people who are exposed to certain viruses or toxins or in those who drink large amounts of alcohol.

What are the Symptoms of Neurodegenerative Disease?

While the first signs of neurodegenerative disease vary depending on the type of the illness and some personal factors, the most common symptoms of neurodegenerative disease are:

  • Forgetfulness and memory loss
  • Mood changes, anxiety, and depression
  • Apathy
  • Agitation
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Poor cognitive abilities
  • Language and speech difficulties
  • Muscle weakness
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Decreased alertness
  • A decline in visual perception
  • Poor judgment and decision-making
  • Unexplained pain
  • Problem-solving difficulties
  • Being repetitive
  • Language and speech difficulties
  • Personality and behavior changes
  • Withdrawal and Isolation

Neurodegenerative diseases cause lasting damage, with symptoms getting worse and new symptoms developing as the disease progresses.

While there is no cure for neurodegenerative diseases, there are treatment options (medications) and lifestyle factors that can reduce the symptoms and help a person maintain quality of life.

What is a Degenerative Neurological Disorder?

The degenerative neurological disorder involves progressive loss of structure or function of neurons due to neurodegeneration that affects many of the body’s and mind’s functions, from cognitive and language abilities to personality changes, behavior, and emotional control. The disease often affects older adults, age 65 and older. However, some brain diseases such as Huntington’s disease are genetic and can begin at an early age.

Depending on their type, degenerative neurological diseases can be serious and life-threatening. However, treatments and lifestyle changes can help improve symptoms, increase mobility and relieve pain.

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