What are brain disorders?
Your brain is your body’s control center. It’s part of the nervous system, which also includes the spinal cord and a large network of nerves and neurons. Together, the nervous system controls everything from your senses to the muscles throughout your body.
When your brain is damaged, it can affect many different things, including your memory, your sensation, and even your personality. Brain disorders include any conditions or disabilities that affect your brain. This includes conditions that are caused by:
- traumatic injury
This is a broad category of disorders, which vary greatly in symptoms and severity. Keep reading to learn about some of the largest categories of brain disorders.
What are the different types of brain disorders?
Brain injuries are often caused by blunt trauma. Trauma can damage brain tissue, neurons, and nerves. This damage affects your brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of your body. Examples of brain injuries include:
- blood clots
- contusions, or bruising of brain tissue
- cerebral edema, or swelling inside the skull
Examples of the symptoms of a brain injury include:
- speech difficulty
- bleeding from the ear
- memory loss
- problems with concentration
Later, you may develop:
- high blood pressure
- a low heart rate
- pupil dilation
- irregular breathing
Depending on the type of injury you have, treatment may include medication, rehabilitation, or brain surgery.
Sometimes, tumors form in the brain and can be very dangerous. These are called primary brain tumors. In other cases, cancer somewhere else in your body spreads to your brain. These are called secondary or metastatic brain tumors.
The cause of brain tumors is largely unknown. They can occur in people of any age. Symptoms of brain tumors depend on the size and location of the tumor. The most common symptoms of brain tumors are:
- numbness or tingling in your arms or legs
- changes in personality
- difficulty with movement or balance
- changes in your hearing, speech, or vision
The type of treatment you’ll receive depends on many different factors, such as the size of the tumor, your age, and your overall health. The main types of treatment for brain tumors are:
- radiation therapy
Neurodegenerative diseases cause your brain and nerves to deteriorate over time. They can change your personality and cause confusion. They can also destroy your brain’s tissue and nerves.
Some brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, may develop as you age. They can slowly impair your memory and thought processes. Other diseases, such as Tay-Sachs disease, are genetic and begin at an early age. Other common neurodegenerative diseases include:
- Huntington’s disease
- ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), or Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- all forms of dementia
Some of the more common symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases include:
- memory loss
- a loss of inhibition
- mood changes
Neurodegenerative diseases cause permanent damage, so symptoms tend to get worse as the disease progresses. New symptoms are also likely to develop over time.
Mental disorders, or mental illnesses, are a large and diverse group of conditions that affect your behavior patterns. Some of the most frequently diagnosed mental disorders are:
The symptoms of mental disorders vary based on the condition. Different people can experience the same mental disorders very differently. You should talk to your doctor if you notice a change in your behavior, thought patterns, or moods.
What are the risk factors for brain disorders?
Brain disorders can affect anyone. Risk factors are different for different types of brain disorders.
Traumatic brain injury is most common in children under 4 years old, young adults between 15 and 25 years old, and adults 65 and older.
Mental disorders are very common. About 1 in 5 American adults has experienced a mental health condition. Your risk may be higher if you:
- a family history of mental illness
- have or have had traumatic or stressful life experiences
- a history of misusing alcohol or drugs
- have or have had a traumatic brain injury
How are brain disorders diagnosed?
Your primary care physician or a neurological specialist can diagnose a brain disorder.
Doctor will likely perform a neurological exam to check your vision, hearing, and balance. Your doctor may also get images of your brain to help them make a diagnosis. The most common diagnostic imaging tools are CT, MRI, and PET scans.
What’s the long-term outlook?
The outlook for people with brain disorders depends on the type and severity of the brain disorder. Some conditions are easily treated with medication and therapy. For example, millions of people with mental disorders live perfectly normal lives.