An acoustic neuroma is a slow-growing tumor of the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. Small tumors with few or no symptoms may be monitored. Larger tumors can damage the nerves involved in hearing, balance and feeling in the face, or lead to a buildup of fluid in the brain, which can be life-threatening.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia, or loss of brain function, that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, perception, language, emotional behavior, personality, thinking and judgment. There is no cure, but early diagnosis and treatment can slow progression of the disease and help manage symptoms.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is degenerative disease of the nerves that control voluntary muscle activity, including speaking, walking, breathing, swallowing and general movement of the body. There is no cure, so the focus is on slowing progression of the disease and managing symptoms.
Aneurysms are blood-filled, balloon-like bulges in the wall of a blood vessel. They usually occur in the arteries at the base of the brain or in the main artery carrying blood from the heart. When an aneurysm gets too large, it can burst, breaking the blood vessel wall and causing a severe hemorrhage (internal bleeding), other complications or death.
Most people experience anxiety – described as worry, fear or concern – in response to a stressful event. Anxiety disorders last at least six months and worsen over time if they are not treated.
Astrocytomas are tumors that grow from astrocytes, the star-shaped cells that make up the supportive tissue of the brain. They can occur in any part of the brain, but usually appear in the cerebrum.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a condition in which people go back and forth between periods of a very good or irritable mood and depression. The mood swings between mania and depression can be very quick and severe, and interfere with an individual’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
A brain hemorrhage refers to bleeding within brain tissue, which kills brain cells. It can be caused by trauma or a stroke.
A brain tumor refers to a tumor, or abnormal growth of cells, within the brain or spine. A tumor can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). Either type of tumor can be serious or life-threatening if it exerts too much pressure on areas of the brain or spine that affect other vital organs or bodily functions.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. It can lead to pain, numbness, tingling, weakness or muscle damage in the hand and fingers.
Cerebral arterio-venous malformation (AVM)
A cerebral arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is a rare condition in which an abnormal connection forms between the arteries and veins in the brain. Because there are no capillaries between the affected artery and vein, increased blood pressure can cause the connection to rupture or an aneurysm to form. Tears in blood vessel walls allow blood to leak into the brain or surrounding tissues, reducing blood flow to the brain and killing brain cells. Stroke is usually the first symptom of an AVM, but symptoms can also include confusion, buzzing in the ears, headache, problems walking, seizures, blurred vision, dizziness, muscle weakness and numbness.
Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. It affects memory, thinking, language, judgment and behavior.
Depression is a common but serious illness. While most people occasionally feel sad or “blue,” major depressive disorder involves sad, empty or anxious feelings for two weeks or more. Other symptoms include feelings of hopelessness; pessimism; guilt; worthlessness; irritability; loss of interest in activities once pleasurable; aches and pains; fatigue; difficulty concentrating; insomnia; and overeating or loss of appetite.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over time. Seizures are episodes of disturbed brain activity that cause changes in attention or behavior. The type of seizure depends on the part of the brain affected and cause of epilepsy. Common symptoms include violent shaking (convulsions), staring spells or loss of alertness.
Fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) is the abnormal development or growth of cells in the walls of arteries, which can cause the vessels to narrow or bulge and increase the risk for stroke. Arteries within the brain, neck and kidneys are commonly affected. FMD affects women more often than men. Common symptoms include high blood pressure, dizziness or vertigo, chronic headache, intracranial aneurysm, ringing in the ears, weakness or numbness in the face, neck pain or changes in vision.
Glioblastomas are the most common and most aggressive malignant (cancerous) primary brain tumors in humans. They are a form of astrocytoma, a tumor that grows in the star-shaped cells that make up the supportive tissue of the brain.
Glioma is a term used to refer to any tumor that arises in the supportive tissue of the brain or spine.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. Symptoms include weakness or tingling sensations in the legs which cab spread to the arms and upper body, and result in total paralysis.
A headache is defined as pain or discomfort in the head, scalp or neck. There are different types of headaches, each with a different cause. These include tension headaches, migraine headaches, cluster headaches, rebound headaches and sinus headaches. Serious cases of headaches are rare.
The human backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between each of these bones are soft disks that help cushion the bones and keep them in place. A herniated disc is a disc that slips out of place, bulges or breaks open. If the disc presses on a nerve, it can cause back pain, neck pain, tingling, numbness, muscle spasms or weakness.
Huntington disease is a progressive brain disorder that causes uncontrolled movements, emotional problems and loss of thinking ability (cognition). The most common form of this order manifests in individuals in their 30s or 40s. Early symptoms include irritability, depression, small involuntary movements, poor coordination and trouble learning new information or making decisions. Over time, symptoms include involuntary jerking or twitching movements, as well as trouble walking, speaking and swallowing.
Meningiomas are a kind of slow-growing brain tumor. These tumors can cause significant damage, disability or death if allowed to press on the brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves or blood vessels.
A migraine is a common type of headache that is often accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light. Migraines are more common in women than men and may run in families. Alcohol, stress, anxiety, certain odors or perfumes, loud noises, bright lights, smoking, ingestion of certain foods and other factors can trigger a migraine.
Motor neuron diseases
Motor neuron diseases are a group of neurological disorders that destroy motor neurons, the cells that control essential voluntary muscle activity such as speaking, walking, breathing and swallowing. The diseases worsen over time.
Nerve damage is a term used to describe damage to any part of the central nervous system. Damage can be mild or severe, depending on the location and type of nerves affected. Autonomic nerves control heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and temperature regulation. Motor nerves control movements and sensory nerves control sensations to pain. Nerves can be damaged by disease, trauma, medication or nutritional deficiencies.
Neuropathy refers to the damage of a single nerve or group of nerves in the body that result in loss of movement or sensation. It can also result in the burning, tingling or weakness of those nerves. Neuropathy can be caused by long-term pressure on a nerve, injury or medical conditions that result in nerve damage.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH)
Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) refers to an increase in cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, which can increase pressure on brain tissue. Increased pressure can damage parts of the brain and has been linked to some types of dementia. Certain head injuries, bleeding inside the brain, meningitis and brain surgery can all result in NPH. Possible signs of NPH include headache; changes in walking patterns and sudden falls; delayed mental function; and urinary and fecal incontinence.
Optic neuritis is inflammation of the optic nerve. It may cause sudden, reduced vision in the affected eye; changes in the way the pupil reacts to bright light; and loss of color vision or pain when moving the affected eye. The cause of this condition is unknown.
Orbital tumors are abnormal growths of tissue in the structures that surround the eye. Symptoms include protrusion of the eyeball, although some tumors may be too small to displace the eyeball. Other symptoms can include pain, loss of vision, double vision, redness, swelling of the eyelids or an obvious mass.
Parkinson’s disease is a common disorder of the brain that leads to shaking (tremors) and difficulty with walking, movement and coordination. It usually runs in families and affects people over age 50. Since there is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease, the goal is to manage symptoms.
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition in which the nerves that carry information to and from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body have been damaged. Symptoms may include pain and numbness, muscle problems and problems with organ function. Nerves can be damaged by disease, medication, poor circulation or nutritional deficiencies. They can also be damaged due to bone fractures, pressure on a nerve or extended exposure to cold temperatures.
Personality disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions in which a person’s long-term behaviors, emotions and thoughts conflict with cultural expectations and cause serious problems with relationships and work. The causes of personality disorders are unknown, but genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role.
A pituitary tumor is an abnormal growth in the pituitary gland, the part of the brain that regulates the body’s balance of hormones. Most of these tumors are benign (non-cancerous). Most pituitary tumors produce too much of one or more hormones, which can result in hyperthyroidism, Cushing syndrome, Gigantism or nipple discharge. Larger pituitary tumors often result in headache, lethargy, nasal drainage, nausea, vomiting, altered sense of smell and changes in vision.
Psychosis is defined as a loss of contact with reality. It is characterized by false beliefs (delusions); seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations); and disorganized thought and speech. Psychosis can be caused by a number of factors, including drugs and alcohol; certain diseases or conditions; tumors and cysts; dementia; and stroke. It can also be present in individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or personality disorders.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder in which individuals have trouble distinguishing between reality and fiction. They also have difficulty thinking clearly, exhibiting normal emotional responses and behaving normally in social situations. Onset usually begins in the teenage years or young adulthood, although in rare instances schizophrenia can affect children after age five. The cause of this disorder is not known, but it tends to run in families.
Sciatica is a term used to describe pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the leg, often on one side. It is caused by injury to or pressure on the sciatic nerve, which starts in the lower spine and runs down the back of each leg. Causes of sciatica include a slipped disk, pelvic injury or fracture, tumor or a condition called piriformis syndrome. Sciatica pain may get worse after standing, sitting or lying down; when sneezing, coughing or laughing; when bending backwards; or when walking.
Seizures refer to the physical and mental changes that occur after an episode of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Symptoms depend on what part of the brain is involved. Many seizures manifest as rapid and uncontrollable shaking (convulsions). Other symptoms include brief blackouts followed by confusion; changes in behavior or mood; drooling; eye movement or staring spells; grunting or snorting; loss of bladder or bowel control; teeth clenching; tasting a bitter or metallic flavor; and loss of alertness.
Spinal fractures refer to broken vertebrae, the tiny bones that make up the backbone. The most common factures occur in the middle and lower parts of the spine, or the location where the two connect. Spinal fractures can result in injury to the spinal cord, which relays messages to and from the brain to the rest of the body. Most spinal fractures are caused by trauma from high-velocity accidents, such as car accidents or elevated falls. However, osteoporosis, tumors and other factors can weaken vertebrae enough to cause fractures during normal, daily activities.
A spinal tumor is any abnormal growth in or surrounding the spinal cord. Most often these are tumors of the connective tissue called gliomas. Tumors that start in spinal tissue are called primary spinal tumors. Tumors that spread to the spine from some other place (metatastasis) are called secondary spinal tumors. As a spinal tumor grows, it can press on the spinal cord, blood vessels, bones of the spine and nerve roots, causing damage. Symptoms of spinal tumors depend on the location and type of tumor present, but can include abnormal or loss of sensation in the legs; back pain; urinary or fecal incontinence; muscle contractions or spasms; and muscle weakness or loss of function.
Spinal instability is a term that describes abnormal movement between vertebrae, the bones that form the spine. The abnormal movement is caused by deteriorating or bulging discs that pad the vertebra and keep the spine straight. This misalignment can result in painful arthritis and bone spurs around the joints.
Spinal stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal column or the openings where spinal nerves leave the spinal column. This narrowing puts pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves, which can cause progressive numbness or weakness in the legs, arms and lower part of the body. It can also result in poor balance when walking, as well as urinary and fecal incontinence. Spinal stenosis usually occurs as a person ages, but may also be caused by arthritis of the spine; bone diseases; growths in the spine; herniated or slipped disks; injury that puts pressure on the nerve roots or spinal cord; and spinal tumors.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain stops and the brain is starved of blood and oxygen. Brain cells can die, causing permanent damage.
Ulnar neuropathy is a disorder involving the ulnar nerve, which travels from the shoulder to the hand and allows movement or sensation in the wrist or hand. Damage to this nerve can result in numbness, tingling, pain or a burning sensation in the fourth and fifth fingers. It can also result in a loss of coordination of these fingers or weakness of the hand.
Vascular malformations are abnormalities in the formation of blood vessels that result in abnormally fast or slow blood flow. Most are present at birth but can also be caused by trauma or a neurological disorder.