The nervous system is a complex, sophisticated system that regulates and coordinates body activities. It is made up of two major divisions, including:
Central nervous system. This consists of the brain and spinal cord.
Peripheral nervous system. This consists of all other neural elements, including the peripheral nerves and the autonomic nerves.
In addition to the brain and spinal cord, principal organs of the nervous system include:
Sensory organs of taste
Sensory organs of smell
Sensory receptors located in the skin, joints, muscles, and other parts of the body
The nervous system is vulnerable to various disorders. It can be damaged by:
Blood flow disruption
Disorders of the nervous system may include:
Vascular disorders, such as stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), subarachnoid hemorrhage, subdural hemorrhage and hematoma, and extradural hemorrhage
Infections, such as meningitis, encephalitis, myelitis, and epidural abscess
Structural disorders, such as brain or spinal cord injury, cervical spondylosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, brain or spinal cord tumors
Functional disorders, such as headache, epilepsy, dizziness, and neuralgia
Degeneration, such as Parkinson disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington chorea, and Alzheimer disease
Autoimmune or inflammatory disorders , such as Bell palsy, multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathy, and Guillain-Barré syndrome
These are the most common general signs and symptoms of a nervous system disorder. But each person may have slightly different symptoms. Symptoms may include:
Persistent or sudden onset of a headache
A headache that changes or is different
Loss of feeling or tingling
Weakness or loss of muscle strength
Loss of sight or double vision
Impaired mental ability
Lack of coordination
Tremors and seizures
Back pain that radiates to the feet, toes, or other parts of the body
Muscle wasting and slurred speech
New language impairment (expression or comprehension)
The symptoms of a nervous system disorder may look like other medical conditions or problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The best way to manage nervous system disorders is with the help of a team of healthcare providers. You may not need all members of the team at any given time. But it's good to know who they are and how they can help. Here is a list of some of the healthcare providers that may be involved in treating nervous system disorders:
Neurologist. The medical healthcare providers who diagnose and treat nervous system disorders are called neurologists. Some neurologists treat acute strokes and cerebral aneurysms using endovascular techniques.
Neurosurgeon. Surgeons who operate as a treatment team for nervous system disorders are called neurological surgeons or neurosurgeons.
Neuroradiologist and interventional radiologist. This is a radiologist who specializes in diagnosing nervous system conditions using imaging and in treating nervous system conditions such as cerebral aneurysms, acute strokes, and vertebral fractures. This provider also does biopsies of certain tumors.
Psychologist. Emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, and irritability are common in nervous system disorders. Your psychologist can help. Psychologists may do testing to find out how much your disorder is affecting the way you think and feel. Psychologists also do talk therapy (counseling) to help you deal with the emotional effects caused by nervous system disorders.
Psychiatrist. Like your psychologist, this team member deals with emotional and behavior symptoms caused by nervous system disorders. In most cases, talk therapy works best for these problems. But if you need medicines to treat symptoms such as depression or anxiety, this doctor can help.
Physiatrist. Healthcare providers who work with people in the rehab (rehabilitation) process are called physiatrists.
Physical therapist. This is a movement specialist who can help you move and walk well. In physical therapy, you can also work on painful or stiff muscles and joints.
Occupational therapist. This provider helps you learn to handle your day-to-day activities. For example, you might have trouble doing tasks you need to do at work or at home. Your occupational therapist will help you find ways to adjust to any changes in your physical abilities.
Speech/language pathologist. This provider specializes in communication, including cognitive communication. They also diagnose and treat swallowing problems.