Last updated date: 07-May-2023
Originally Written in English
Neurodegenerative disease refers to an umbrella term for various health conditions that primarily impact the neurons in the brain. The word neurodegenerative can be split into two parts; neuro and degenerative. Neuro refers to the brain, while degenerative means breaking down or losing the function of organs and tissues. This is also considered a progressive and slow failure of the nerve cells.
Neurons are the essential brain cells as they are responsible for the effective functioning of the brain. This includes remembering certain tasks, movement, conversing with friends or thinking about school work. Brain disorders resulting from miscommunications in one area disrupt brain activities. This result in various illnesses and diseases where the most complicated are neurodegeneration diseases.
Types of Neurodegenerative Disease
The common types of neurodegenerative diseasesinclude;
Parkinson’s disease (PD):
Parkinson’s disease is a long-term progressive and the most common neurodegenerative disease that affects the movement of an individual. It occurs due to the loss of neurons in the part of the brain referred to as substantia nigra. This region within the brain is responsible for the production of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter between the neurons in the substantia nigra with motion-producing parts of the brain like the frontal lobe. Loss of neurons in the substantia nigra means that there is miscommunication, and neurons no longer function in harmony.
The actual causes of Parkinson’s disease are not known. However, some of the factors that can trigger the condition include;
Genes: Based on research studies, certain genetic mutations have been identified to cause the condition.
Environmental factors: The chances are relatively limited. However, exposure to particular toxins and environmental triggers could increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
The signs and symptoms may include;
- A tremor or sudden shaking that starts in the limb, especially in the fingers or hand
- Slowed mobility or bradykinesia. This makes it difficult to conduct even the simple tasks
- Muscles rigidity and stiffness can occur in any body part
- Automatic movement loss, including smiling, blinking, or swinging of the arms while walking
- Stooped posture or balancing problems
- Changes in the normal speech where you can talk quickly, slowly, or hesitation before speaking
There is no cure for Parkinson's disease, although drugs will substantially ease the symptoms. Surgery may be recommended in some more difficult situations. The doctor can also advise you to make some adjustments on lifestyle, including constant aerobic exercise. Physical rehabilitation that works on posture balancing and stretching is also helpful in some situations. Furthermore, the speech-language pathologist will be able to assist you with your speech issues.
This is a progressive neurologic condition that makes the brain shrink and causes the death of brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease is the main trigger of dementia which is associated with continuous loss of thinking. Also, it gradually affects the socials and behavioral skills of a person, hence altering the ability to work independently.
Some of the early symptoms involve forgetting event recent conversations or events. An individual with Alzheimer's disease will experience significant memory deterioration and lose the ability to perform daily activities as the disease progresses.
Initially, individuals suffering from Alzheimer's disease can be aware that they have a problem remembering certain things and managing their thoughts. However, a close friend or family member is likely to identify as the symptoms aggravate.
Some of the brain changes related to Alzheimer's disease result in developing a problem with;
- Reasoning or thinking
- Making decisions and judgment
- Organizing and conducting familiar activities or tasks
- Behavior and personality changes
- Preservation of the essential skills
The actual causes and triggers of Alzheimer's disease remain unknown. However, on a fundamental level, brain proteins do not act properly, which interrupt the functions of brain cells (neurons) and sets off a chain of toxic events. With time, neurons get damaged, lose their connections, and finally die.
Existing Alzheimer's treatments may assist with memory symptoms and other brain changes for a short period. Currently, the two forms of medications that are used to relieve cognitive symptoms include;
- Cholinesterase inhibitors
- Memantine (Namenda)
Huntington’s disease is a rare, hereditary condition that involves the gradual breakdown (degeneration) of brain nerve cells. Huntington's disease has a wide-ranging effect on a person's physical capacity, resulting in movement, thought (cognitive), and psychological conditions.
Huntington's disease signs can occur at any age, but they are most frequent in people in their 30s or 40s. If the disease appears before the age of 20, it is referred to as juvenile Huntington's disease. As Huntington's disease progresses early, the symptoms are very different, and the disease can progress more quickly.
The manner in which the symptoms occur vary widely from one person to another. Certain signs and symptoms tend to be more dominant or associated with a great impact on functional abilities. However, this eventually changes or improves throughout the illness.
There are no treatments that can modify Huntington’s disease course. However, the medications available will help with the associated symptoms. On the contrary, the treatments cannot hinder the condition's physical, emotional, and behavioral deterioration.
Motor neuron disease:
Motor neuron disorders are a group of illnesses in which the nerves in the spine and brain progressively lose control. These conditions are an uncommon but serious type of neurodegeneration disease.
Motor neurons are the vital nerve cells that transmit electrical output signals towards muscles, controlling their ability to function. This disease can develop at any time in life while the symptoms occur after 40 years of age. Furthermore, it’s more common in men, unlike women.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is the most common form of motor neuron disease that affects the majority of people. Other types of motor neuron disease include;
- Primary lateral sclerosis (PLS)
- Progressive bulbar palsy (PBP)
- Pseudobulbar palsy
- Progressive muscular atrophy
- Spinal muscular atrophy
Symptoms emerge slowly in the early stages and can be similar to those of other diseases. The signs can differ based on the form of motor neuron disease, and the part of the body is affected.
The typical symptoms can start in one of these regions; the legs, arms, mouth, or respiratory system. The common symptoms include;
- Cramps, muscle pains, or twitches
- Swallowing difficulties
- Slurred speech
- Stumbling and clumsiness
- Shortness of breath
There is no exact treatment for motor neuron disease. However, the available treatment can help slow down the progress of the condition and enhance comfort and independence. Other treatment technique involves physical therapy and supports devices.
Multiple system atrophy (MSA):
MSA is a rare type of neurodegenerative disease that affects involuntary or autonomic body functions. This includes breathing, blood pressure, bladder function, and motor coordination. It can develop in various parts of the body and affect people of all ages.
MSA is associated with similar symptoms as those of Parkinson’s disease, including stiff muscles, poor balancing, and slow mobility. However, the symptoms mostly affect adults aging between 50 to 60 years.
Multiple system atrophy has no actual cause. However, it deteriorates and shrinks (atrophy) brain regions that control internal body activities, metabolism, and motor control. These parts of the brain include the cerebellum, brainstem, and basal ganglia.
Multiple system atrophy has no known cure. Managing the condition entails treating the associated signs and symptoms in order to keep you as healthy as possible. This also helps maintain normal body functions.
The doctor may suggest the following to treat certain signs and symptoms;
- Drugs to increase the blood pressure level
- Medication to ease Parkinson’s disease similar symptoms and signs
- Physical therapy
Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP):
This is another rare neurodegenerative disease that affects walking, remembering, and movement of the eyes by damaging the brain. The most affected portion of the brain includes the substantia nigra, basal ganglia, pars reticulate, subthalamic nucleus, and other midbrain structures. It can also result in a variety of other symptoms.
PSP is usually mistaken for Parkinson's disease. The associated signs and symptoms tend to worsen over time and can include the following;
- Frequent loss of balance
- Inability to aim the eyes
- Swallowing and speaking difficulties
- Loss of interest
- Muscle stiffness and slow movement
There is no specific cure or way to delay or reverse progressive supranuclear palsy. However, doctors have discovered some innovative medications to better manage some of the symptoms and enhance life quality.
These treatment forms include;
- Antiparkinsonian medications
- Antidepressant drugs
- Surgical method (a gastrostomy)
Neurodegenerative diseases are neuron-related that affect various body activities. They include movement, balancing, breathing, heart function, and talking. Most of these conditions are genetic, and at times, stroke, tumor, or alcohol use triggers the disease. Other potential causes of these conditions are viruses, chemical exposure, and toxins.
Depending on the type of neurodegenerative disease, it can be chronic or life-threatening. While most have no actual cure, the available treatment can help ease the symptoms, reduce pain, and improve movement.