Neurological Movement Disorders

Neurological Movement Disorders

Introduction

The simplest movement, such as picking up a glass of water, walking or gesturing, involves a complex motor process that results from the activities of different parts of the brain working together with the nerves and muscles. Our brain controls our movement using connections made with the electrical impulses carried through nerves to the brain. These impulses act as electrical cables and they are made when the body receives a signal. The thought areas of the brain stimulate or trigger the motor area to send a signal to the muscles which then take the necessary action. As the action is being carried out, a constant flow of information occurs to and from the brain and muscles through the spinal cord nerves, in order to regulate the balance and power needed for a smooth action. However, neurological conditions can cause movement disorders that hamper smooth action of the body. Throughout the world, there is a high prevalence of movement disorders, and a large number of people are dealing with diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, tics, essential tremor, Huntington’s disease, Tourette and other diseases characterised by involuntary movement. Their cognitive and emotional functioning may also be affected because many movement disorders are associated with a brain disease.

Parkinson’s disease

A progressive disorder of the brain’s Central Nervous System that mainly affect the proper movement of the body. Parkinson’s disease is believed to be a result of low dopamine levels in the brain. In addition to its other functions, the chemical dopamine activates cells in the brain that allow movement. Risk factors for Parkinson’s disease include age, male gender, heredity, and level of exposure to toxins. This disease is mainly characterised by stiff posture, muscle rigidity, tremors, slowness of movements, and compromise of balance, which are motor-related. Other symptoms include mild language difficulties and impairment of cognitive function. Some patients may develop dementia later as the disease progresses.

Treatment of Parkinson’s disease include the use of Selegiline, which helps to create more dopamine in the brain, or Levodopa. The most effective drug available for providing relief of PD symptoms is Levodopa. Chronic Levodopa therapy can however lead to complications in patients. The movement symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be alleviated with surgical treatment such as Deep Brain Stimulation.

Tourette syndrome

A hereditary neurological disorder causing uncontrollable vocal sounds known as tics, or repeated involuntary movements. This movement disorder may occur as early as age two or as late as age 20, but it tends to evidence itself most often between the ages of 6 and 15. Involuntary movements (tics) are often the first symptoms, occurring on the face, arms, legs or trunk. Incontrollable vocalisations (verbal tics) such as grunting, shouting, throat clearing or barking usually accompany the movements. Vocalisations may also be in the form of involuntary use of socially unacceptable or obscene words and phrases (coprolalia) or obscene gestures (copropraxia). These tics disappear in a person’s early 20s for an estimated 70 percent of cases.

While tics do not often require medication, there are a number of medications prescribed when symptoms interfere with patient’s ability to function. All of these drugs have possibly serious side effects, the lowest effective dosage is all that is prescribed.

Essential Tremor

Essential tremor is caused by abnormalities in the areas of the brain that control movement. The condition is not tied to an underlying disease like Parkinson’s for example is hereditary as over 50 percent of essential tremor suffers have a family history of the disease. Essential tremor is characterised by involuntary shaking or trembling or one or both hands or arms, which worsens when the individual attempts to perform basic movements. This condition does not lead to serious complications, but it can cause distress and interfere with regular activities.

Changes in lifestyle or physical therapy may improve symptoms in some cases. If the inability of the patient to perform daily activities is reducing his or her quality of life, medication or surgery are viable options.

Huntington’s disease

Certain nerve cells in the brain deteriorate and cause Huntington’s disease, a progressive, degenerative and fatal movement disorder. The condition often starts between the ages of 35 and 50, progressing without remission and spanning over 10 to 25 years. About 16 percent of all cases occurs in younger patients aged 20 years and under. Symptoms of Huntington’s disease include uncontrollable movements of the trunk, limbs and face, jerking, development of psychiatric problems and the progressive loss of mental capabilities. It is a hereditary condition, with children of affected parents having a 50 percent chance of developing the disease.

Huntington’s disease has no cure, so the focus for treatment procedures is reducing symptoms, preventing complications and making it easier for patients and family members to handle daily challenges. Tranquilizers, mood stabilizers, antidepressants and antipsychotics may be prescribed by doctors, but as the lowest effective dosages because of high possibilities of side effects.

Movement Disorders FAQs

How is Tourette syndrome diagnosed?

No clinical or laboratory tests exist to diagnose Tourette. However, professionally trained care providers and doctors can identify the symptoms through careful and often repeated clinical examinations.

Is a person with Tourette able to live a normal life?

Tourette is not the same with every patient. The lifestyle of a person dealing with Tourette will depend on the severity of his tics, how painful or how embarrassing they are. Some people experience barely noticeable tics and can have the semblance of a normal life.

Can I pass on Parkinson’s disease to my children?

No. Parkinson is regarded as the result of a complex interaction between both environmental and genetic factors. However, patients may have a relative who is infected, but the vast majority do not.

What can I do to cope with Parkinson’s disease?

In addition to taking prescribed medication, it is important to stay informed about your condition and stay as active as possible. Incorporate regular exercise into your life and enjoy daily activities.

What happens if a tremor sufferer gets pregnant?

The severity of essential tremors may fluctuate during pregnancy and post-delivery. Even before getting pregnant, the patient should discuss the use of tremor medications as some drugs can put the foetus at risk.

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