As we age, all of us notice changes in our hair, skin and joints that let us know we are getting older. Along with these visible changes, our brains and central nervous system are going through the aging process too. This is one reason you are more likely to suffer from a neurological problem after the age of 65.
Some of the more common neurological disorders that affect seniors include strokes, neuropathy, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Chances are, you know someone who has dealt with one of these medical problems.
If you believe you are suffering from a neurological issue, the first step is being assessed by a neurologist. During your appointment, you will be asked a series of questions to learn more about your condition, and possibly undergo some neurological testing. Fortunately, many disorders of the brain and nervous system can be successfully treated and the different treatments doctors utilize are constantly improving.
These are some of the more common neurological disorders you are likely to encounter:
Neuropathy – this nerve disorder causes symptoms such as numbness and weakness, often affecting the hands and feet. It can be the result of systemic diseases such as diabetes, as well as medications and other causes.
Alzheimer’s disease – a form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys cells in the brain and ultimately interferes with a person’s most basic mental and physical functions. The exact cause is still unknown.
Parkinson’s disease – a chronic and progressive movement disorder, Parkinson’s disease involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain. Treatment options include medication and surgery to manage symptoms.
Myopathy – a disorder of the muscles, myopathy is characterized by muscle weakness that is usually the most severe in the upper arms and thighs.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, this is a progressive disease affecting motor neurons and causes deterioration of the body’s muscle function. There is no known cure for ALS.
Stroke – this dangerous, life-threatening event occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is suddenly interrupted or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Warning signs include face drooping, arm weakness, and speech difficulty. Call 911 immediately if you see the warning signs of stroke.
Myasthenia Gravis – a chronic autoimmune disorder, this disease blocks the signals from the nerves to the muscles and makes the muscles unable to move. A key indication of the disease is muscle weakness that increases during periods of activity and improves after periods of rest.
Muscular Dystrophy – a group of progressive muscle disorders that has a genetic basis. Symptoms begin with a weakening of the muscles closest to the trunk of the body and later progress to severe muscle deterioration and muscle contraction.
Can neurological disorders be prevented?
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to minimize your chances of a neurological disorder. The first step is controlling risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and lack of exercise which can contribute to stroke, and possibly other neurological issues. Even if you do suffer from a neurological problem when you get older, the healthier you are the better able you will be able to deal with it.
The Division of Neurology at Reliant Medical Group is dedicated to providing superior care for all manner of neurological illnesses, including advanced testing and treatment by our board-certified physicians. To schedule an appointment, just call (508) 368-3150.