The nervous system is made up of the brain and the spinal cord (the central nervous system), and the nerves that extend throughout the body to provide sensory information to the brain (known as the peripheral nervous system). There are over 600 diseases and disorders that can affect this complex system. Diagnosing these diseases can be a complicated process, but one that has improved significantly over the last few decades with the invention of sophisticated scanning and imaging techniques. However, there are many types of neurological disorders that initiate with subtle and hard-to-detect signs and symptoms. Since early diagnosis and intervention are often critical to an optimal outcome, it is important for medical professionals to utilize the most up-to-date and comprehensive methodologies available.
Hard-to-Detect Neurological Conditions
The variety of neurological problems a person can experience is both vast and complex. Some of these disorders begin with very subtle symptoms, such as periodic memory losses, slight tremors, blurred vision, loss of sensation or numbness on one side of the body, difficulty thinking and using language or changes in the cadence or quality of speech. Parkinson’s disease, some forms of epilepsy, stroke, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia are just a few the neurological diseases that have signs that are difficult to detect and diagnose in the early stages.
There is a host of methodologies for diagnosing neurological conditions. They include:
Lab tests of blood and urine – can detect bacteria and viruses that may affect the nervous system
Genetic tests – can include examination of the amniotic fluid, blood tests, biopsy of the placenta or ultrasound
- X-rays – can determine structural anomalies
- Computed Tomography – CT scan shows the structure of bones, organs and tissues
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging – MRI also shows highly detailed structures including bones, tissues and even nerves
- Positron Emission Tomography – PET scans record activity in the brain and can point to diseases like multiple sclerosis, brain injury, and stroke
- Spinal Tap – involves collecting cerebrospinal fluid for examination for bacteria or viruses such as meningitis
Behavioral Symptoms of Neurological Disorders
Medical conditions, particularly neurological diseases, can cause changes in behavior that can sometimes be incorrectly attributed to environmental or other factors, so it is important to rule out any neurological problems if a family member experiences changes in behavior that are not typical for them. For example, mood swings, anger outbursts, depression, and anxiety are all symptoms that can be associated with various physical disease processes.
The diagnosis of neurological diseases and disorders can be quite complex, and failure to recognize neurological symptoms can have an adverse effect on patient outcomes. Because neurological symptoms can be attributed to other causes and other types of diseases, it may be difficult to get an accurate diagnosis, particularly when the symptoms are not initially severe. It may be necessary to seek assistance if a loved-one is showing symptoms that are not being explained satisfactorily. There are some resources available online that can help inform and guide decision-making, as well as legal professionals who are familiar with the laws governing misdiagnosing illness and medical malpractice.