Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease, is a rapidly progressive neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles, such as those in the arms, legs, and face.
ALS causes weakness with a wide range of disabilities. Early signs and symptoms include:
- Difficulty walking or difficulty doing your normal daily activities
- Weakness in your leg, feet or ankles
- Hand weakness or clumsiness
- Slurring of speech or trouble swallowing
- Muscle cramps and twitching in your arms, shoulders, and tongue
- Difficulty holding your head up or keeping a good posture
Eventually, all muscles under voluntary control are affected, and individuals lose their strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and body. ALS does not affect a person’s ability to see, smell, taste, hear, or recognize touch.
Ataxia is a loss or decrease in the control over fine motor skills. It can be caused by damage to the cerebellum, which is located at the base of the brain and is the region of the brain that controls voluntary motor control. The cerebellum can be damaged by alcohol abuse, stroke, tumors, cerebral palsy, or Multiple Sclerosis.
- Difficulty in buttoning a shirt.
- An unsteady gait or difficulty walking.
- Poor coordination in the hands and/or legs.
- Struggling when performing tasks like handwriting or eating with a fork.
- Abnormal eye movement or twitching.
- Increased difficulty in eating/swallowing food.
Epilepsy, a disorder resulting from a disturbance in the electrical conduction of our brains, can result from a number of conditions, causing seizure-like symptoms. Symptoms include:
- Confusion, usually temporary.
- Staring off into space.
- A complete loss of consciousness or memory for a certain period of time.
- Uncontrolled jerking, tremors, or movement of the arms and legs.
- Loss of muscle control, resulting in incontinence.
Seizures can result from genetic inheritance, a head trauma, dementia, or medical conditions like heart attack or stroke that affect brain tissue. You should seek medical care the first time you have a seizure. Seek emergency help if the seizure lasts more than five minutes, if you hurt yourself during a seizure, if you are pregnant, or if you are diabetic. Seek medical help if you witness someone having a seizure that meets any of these criteria or if he/she does not begin to breathe or immediately regain consciousness.
Increased stress, tension, and lack of downtime in today’s hectic world have increased the incidence of migraines in otherwise healthy children and adults. Migraine headaches can take the common headache to extremes, causing severe pain, visual disturbances, nausea, and sensitivity to noise or light.
Migraines can often be controlled through lifestyle changes and/or medication.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
The sudden onset on health problems is scary, but early intervention and treatment can make a difference in the severity of associated symptoms. In MS, our central nervous system is damaged by our own immune system, causing symptoms such as:
- Numbness or tingling in the arms and/or legs, usually on one side of the body at a time, or just in the legs.
- Visual disturbance, including a ‘blind spot’ or loss of vision in one eye; pain caused by eye movement, double or blurred vision.
- Tremors or unexplained loss of coordination, including difficulty walking or a feeling of unsteadiness or dizziness.
- Pain, tingling, or a feeling that something is ‘asleep.’
- Unexplained fatigue.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. While a tremor may be the most well-known sign of Parkinson's disease, the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Stiff and aching muscles
- Impaired posture and balance; walking may become difficult
- Slowed movement, especially when moving from a resting position like getting out of bed
- Loss of automatic movements, like blinking, smiling, or swinging your arms when walking
- Weakness of facial and throat muscles
A small number of people have symptoms on only one side of the body that never move to the other side.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that measures and records brain waves and activity. A number of electrodes, or sensors, are attached to the head and hooked by wires to a computer. The computer records the brain's electrical activity on the screen or on paper as wavy lines. Certain conditions, such as seizures, can be seen by the changes in the normal pattern of the brain's electrical activity. It also is used to evaluate people who are experiencing problems associated with brain function. Problems include tumors, confusion, coma, long-term memory difficulties, or weakening of specific parts of the body due to a stroke or other illness.
Electromyography (EMG) measures how fast and how well nerves can send electrical signals throughout the body. It is often performed when patients complain of unexplained muscle weakness. The diagnostic procedure helps distinguish between muscle weakness due to nerve disorders and muscle conditions in which the problem begins in the muscle.
To conduct the test, a small needle is inserted through the skin into the muscle and the patient is asked to move a bit to contract the muscle being tested. Electrical activity is detected by this needle.
EMG is used to detect abnormal electrical activity of muscle that occurs in diseases and conditions including: pinched nerves, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), muscular dystrophy, muscle inflammation, peripheral nerve damage (damage to nerves in the arms and legs), myasthenia gravis, disc herniation, and others.
Myelography is a type of radiographic examination that uses a contrast medium to detect issues with the spinal cord, including the location of a spinal cord injury, cysts, and tumors. The procedure often involves injection of a contrast medium into the cervical or lumbar spine, followed by X-rays. A myelogram may help to find the cause of pain not found by an MRI or CT.