What Is the Number 1 Neurological Disease?

Medically Reviewed on 12/2/2022
What Is the Number 1 Neurological Disease
The most common neurological disorders are headache, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, and epilepsy

Neurological diseases are those that affect the brain, spinal cord, and/or nerves throughout the body. There are nearly 600 neurological disorders. 

The most common neurological disorders are:

What are the top 5 neurological disorders?

1. Headache

Headaches are classified into four types:

Vascular headache: Includes cluster headaches, which cause recurrent bouts of excruciating pain, headaches caused by high blood pressure, and toxic headaches caused by a fever from an acute illness

  • Muscular contraction (tension) headache: Includes headaches caused by face and neck muscle tightening or tension
  • Traction headache: Also known as persistent progressive headache, worsens over time and may indicate an issue that causes distortion of the pain-sensitive structures within the cranium
  • Inflammatory headache: Caused by meningitis (mild inflammation of the meninges, or membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord)

As with other types of pain, headaches can act as warning signs of more serious illnesses. For example, traction and inflammatory headaches may be signs of a stroke or sinus infection.

Migraine is the most common type of primary headache, meaning it is not a symptom of an underlying illness. Migraine headaches are distinguished by extreme pain on one or both sides of the head, an upset stomach, and, in some cases, blurred vision. Migraine headaches are more common in women than in men.

Not all headaches require medical treatment. Some headaches, however, are symptoms of serious illness and require immediate medical attention:

Treatment for headaches

Treatment is usually recommended when headaches occur 3 or more times per month. The most common techniques for preventing and treating migraine and other vascular headaches include:

  • Medications
  • Biofeedback training
  • Stress reduction
  • Dietary changes
  • Regular physical activity, such as swimming or walking

2. Stroke

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a section of the brain is cut off or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing blood to leak in and around the brain tissue. Brain cells die as they do not receive oxygen and nutrients from the blood.

Stroke is classified into two types: 

  • Ischemic (blockage of an artery feeding the brain) 
  • Hemorrhagic (bleeding into the brain)

Symptoms of stroke include:

  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Numbness or weakness, particularly on one side of the body 
  • Confusion or speech difficulties
  • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dizziness or loss of balance or coordination 

Treatment for stroke

The most common treatment for stroke is medication or pharmacological therapy. Antithrombotics (antiplatelet agents and anticoagulants) and thrombolytics are the most frequently utilized medication groups to prevent or treat stroke.

Treatment for stroke is usually done in three stages:

  • Prevention: Prevention involves treating an individual's underlying risk factors for stroke, such as hypertension, atrial fibrillation, and diabetes.
  • Immediate treatment following a stroke: Acute stroke treatments may halt a stroke by rapidly dissolving the blood clot that causes an ischemic stroke or preventing the bleeding that causes a hemorrhagic stroke.
  • Post-stroke rehabilitation: Post-stroke therapy assists people in overcoming difficulties, such as speech issues or weakness, caused by a stroke.

3. Alzheimer's disease (AD)

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, age-related neurological disorder that develops over time. People first experience memory loss and confusion, which may be confused with the type of memory alterations associated with normal aging. However, Alzheimer’s disease typically causes symptoms such as:

  • Progressive changes in behavior and personality
  • Reduction in cognitive functions such as decision-making and language skills
  • Difficulty recognizing family and friends
  • Serious loss of mental function

These losses are linked to the deterioration of connections between certain neurons in the brain and their eventual death. AD is one of a group of conditions known as dementias, which are characterized by cognitive and behavioral issues. It is the leading cause of dementia in adults who are 65 years and older.

Treatment for Alzheimer's disease

Currently, there are no medications that can halt the course of Alzheimer's disease. FDA-approved drugs used to treat symptoms include:

These medications can help people with daily tasks by sustaining thinking, memory, or speaking abilities. They can also assist with some of the behavioral and psychological changes linked with AD. They cannot, however, stop or reverse AD. 

4. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive neurological disease that destroys the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for regulating voluntary muscles. 

In ALS, both the upper and lower motor neurons deteriorate or die, resulting in the inability to send signals to muscles. Muscles that are unable to operate eventually weaken and waste away. Eventually, the brain's ability to initiate and govern voluntary movement is gone. Typically, symptoms appear initially in the arms and hands, legs, or swallowing muscles.

The disease generally starts as twitching in various muscles, particularly those in the arms, shoulders, and tongue. Individuals with ALS lose strength and the ability to move their arms, legs, and other muscles, as well as the ability to breathe without ventilatory assistance when the diaphragm and chest wall muscles cease to function adequately. 

This disorder has no effect on the ability to see, smell, taste, hear, or feel. Although the disease normally does not affect a person's intellect or personality, some new studies report that some people with ALS may develop cognitive impairments, such as word fluency, decision-making, and memory.

Treatment for ALS

There is currently no cure for ALS. However, treatment can help slow disease progression and manage symptoms. FDA-approved medications for ALS include riluzole, edaravone, and sodium phenylbutyrate, and taurursodiol. 

Other therapies are intended to alleviate symptoms and enhance the quality of life of people with ALS. There are medications available to treat those who have spasticity, pain, panic attacks, and depression. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and rehabilitation may aid in the prevention of joint immobility and slowing of muscle weakening and atrophy. Individuals with ALS may need respiratory support as the disease progresses. 

5. Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a group of brain disorders in which abnormal brain activity causes seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and emotions. Regular patterns of neural activity are disrupted in epilepsy, resulting in convulsions, muscular spasms, and loss of consciousness in some cases. 

There are numerous types of seizures and many different causes of epilepsy. Seizures can be caused by anything that disrupts the regular pattern of nerve cell activity, from brain diseases and injury to abnormal brain development. 

A single seizure caused by a high body temperature (called a febrile seizure) or a head injury does not always indicate that a person has epilepsy. Common epilepsy diagnostic methods include measuring electrical activity in the brain and brain scans such as magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography.

Treatment for epilepsy

It is critical to begin therapy as soon as epilepsy is detected. Seizures can be managed with medications and surgical methods. Some medications are more helpful for certain types of seizures.

Individuals with seizures, particularly those that are difficult to manage, should consult with an epilepsy specialist. Along with medications, specific diets may help control seizures in children.

Medically Reviewed on 12/2/2022
Image Source: iStock image

5 Common Neurological Disorders and How to Identify Them: https://www.medstarhealth.org/blog/5-common-neurological-disorders-and-how-to-identify-them#:~:text=1.,cluster%20headaches%2C%20and%20tension%20headaches

Neurological Disorders: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/neurological-disorders