The human brain is undoubtedly one of the most complex organs of all and can be affected by a variety of diseases. Since it forms the body ‘s central nervous system (CNS) along with the spinal cord, brain diseases usually not only affect localized brain structures and functions, but are also automatically associated with far-reaching physical and psychological effects.
What are brain diseases?
In brain diseases, according to Abbreviationfinder, either nerve cells are injured, leading to failure or death, or the complex circuits of the brain are impaired or abnormal. Both have a direct effect not only on pure brain function, but also go hand in hand with the associated physical and psychological symptoms and changes.
Therefore, the spectrum of brain diseases is also extremely wide – from traumatic injuries (e.g. accident with severe head and brain injury) to strokes or cerebral hemorrhages to dementia, multiple sclerosis or even coma (so-called apallic syndrome). These are just examples, because there are almost countless brain diseases that can also cause a wide variety of symptoms.
The brain is the body’s central control unit, which not only processes information and sensory impressions from the environment, but also issues commands to each cell accordingly in order to be optimally adapted and integrated to the outside world. These highly complex and energy-intensive tasks are carried out by (estimated) 100 billion nerve cells and just as many glial cells, which are not only networked with each other, but are also connected to every part of the body and are largely responsible for its functioning and health.
The brain is just as responsible for controlling vegetative processes (such as breathing, heart rate, wakefulness and recovery phases, sympathicotonia and vagotonia) as it is for cognitive performance, sensory perception or emotions. Developmentally older parts of the brain such as the brainstem, the medulla oblongata (extended spinal cord) or parts of the midbrain work closely with the younger systems (e.g. cortical or prefrontal areas) to enable perfect physical interaction – and also motor and sensory ones achievements to the development of intelligence and personality.
This is all the more important to understand in order to approach the far-reaching role and complexity of brain diseases in general. Also very interesting: the brain consumes up to 20% of our energy when it is at rest in order to perform all its services and functions.
Therefore, the spectrum of possible brain diseases is generally very large and complex and affects many areas of medicine. General functional disorders or pain, but also psychological changes or motor and cognitive losses can be signs of brain diseases. But hormonal changes can also have their origin in the brain, for example the pituitary gland may be involved.
For this reason, there is also no uniform cause or definition of brain diseases: These range from exogenous, traumatic influences (e.g. injuries) to circulatory lesions (such as circulatory disorders ) to neoplastic changes, ie cell proliferation in the brain (e.g. tumors, gliomas, cysts in the brain, etc.). This makes it clear that every brain disease is or can be the reason or beginning of far-reaching physical changes and diseases.
Depending on the brain disease, the cause must be researched: Is there an exogenous trauma? Are circulatory disorders the reason? Are there inflammatory processes in the brain (such as encephalopathy) that can be caused by viruses, fungi, bacteria, even worms? Has there been a lack of oxygen (eg perinatal, ie around birth), to which nerve cells in particular react very sensitively, which are among the cells that perish after a few minutes of oxygen deprivation?
The exact etiology of many brain diseases is unknown, ie the specific causes and development of the disease are unknown, which is why brain diseases are generally about the localization of the existing functional disorder or disease within the brain, but also about their effects on the whole body. In addition, many brain diseases have not only not yet been fully researched in terms of their causes, but are also all the more difficult (and hardly causally) treatable as a result.
For example, the cause of multiple sclerosis, a severe, chronic, inflammatory disease, is still largely unknown; MS causes a degenerative change in the myelin sheaths of the central nervous system and, as a result, severe motor paralysis and dysfunction. Degenerative brain diseases, the cause of which is largely unknown, also include Alzheimer’s disease, a severe form of dementia, as well as Parkinson’s disease (motor disease, so-called “shaking disease”), epilepsy and the rare disease Huntington ‘s disease (so-called “St. Vitus’ dance”). with uncontrolled muscle twitching.
What is the reproducible cause of the vascular occlusions or the vascular ruptures that occur in the case of a stroke, which is widespread in our latitudes, cannot yet be said with absolute certainty. In any case, a stroke (apoplexy) is one of the more common brain diseases, and the variously pronounced symptoms (including suddenly occurring disturbances of consciousness, mostly one-sided paralysis) are the consequences of the insufficient supply of blood and oxygen after a vascular occlusion and/or pressure on motor or sensory areas in the brain.
By the way: If the brain is irreversibly damaged and fails (ie brain waves are no longer measurable), this is referred to as brain death and, which is extremely controversial from an ethical point of view, also recognized as a general definition of death.
Typical & common diseases
- brain tumor
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- memory lapses
- cerebral hemorrhage
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
The signs of a brain disease are extremely diverse and highly dependent on the type and severity of the disease. Paralysis, dizziness and speech and vision disorders are the main symptoms of a stroke, while epilepsy is typically characterized by seizures, twitching of limbs and impaired consciousness. High fever, headache, stiff neck, photophobia and nausea are characteristic of meningitis ( meningitis ). In the advanced stage of meningitis caused by meningococci, minute bleeding into the skin (petechiae) occurs.
Dementia diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease are characterized by a progressive loss of mental abilities. At the beginning of the disease, memory disorders, difficulties in temporal and spatial orientation and word- finding disorders are noticeable, and as the disease progresses, everyday activities can no longer be carried out independently. The mental and physical decline is often accompanied by strong mood swings and depressive moods.
Creutzfeld-Jakob disease shows a similar picture, in which both mental and physical abilities are increasingly impaired: those affected suffer from pronounced forgetfulness, paralysis, balance and coordination disorders. In the late stages of the disease, a pronounced listlessness and depression usually set in. Migraine is a comparatively harmless, but nevertheless stressful brain disease: It manifests itself in severe, paroxysmal headaches that generally occur on one side and are accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light.
Diagnosis & History
The diagnosis of brain diseases is as diverse as the different and numerous forms in this context. Because the symptoms range from changes in consciousness to loss of thinking and performance and mental changes to more or less severe motor or sensory impairments and other physical functional failures, such as visual disturbances, or severe pain.
In diagnostics, a distinction is often made between brain diseases with neurological symptoms and those with psychiatric symptoms. For the respective diagnosis and clarification of a brain disease, precise differential diagnostic examination methods, especially using imaging methods, are therefore essential. Based on this, not only can a clearer diagnosis be made, a possible course can also be predicted – depending on the disease – or a close-meshed follow-up control is possible.
The imaging, diagnostic options include magnetic resonance imaging, but also computed tomography of the brain (cerebral computed tomography, CCT – with or without contrast media). The measurement of the brain waves and the respective activity of different brain areas can also be helpful in some cases for diagnostic clarification. The electroencephalogram ( EEG ) is used for this purpose.
Anyone who, as the saying goes, has something “with their nerves” does not necessarily only have to be affected by the narrowly defined brain functions, but also far superior functions can be involved, such as consciousness, mood or even the cognitive ones Capabilities.
And brain diseases are not uncommon: According to estimates, between 400 and 500 million people worldwide are affected by brain diseases, which makes them one of the central challenges of modern research, diagnostics and therapy. In the WHO statistics, around half of the most common diseases with premature death come from the area of nerve and brain diseases with the far-reaching consequences mentioned.
It is usually not possible to predict all the complications and symptoms of brain diseases. However, these can have a very negative effect not only on the physical but also on the psychological condition of the patient and lead to severe symptoms. In most cases, those affected suffer from epileptic seizures or a stroke.
Loss of memory or coordination problems occur. Furthermore, there can be mental regression and thus retardation, so that the person concerned may be dependent on the help of other people in everyday life. It is not uncommon for brain diseases to lead to depression and other mental health problems.
Increased intracranial pressure can cause headaches, which often spread to other areas of the body. The brain diseases can also lead to visual disturbances or hearing loss. In the worst case, the patient becomes completely blind.
Whether a treatment will lead to a positive course of the disease or is even possible cannot be predicted in the case of brain diseases. However, the treatment is always causal and depends on the underlying disease. In some cases, no treatment is possible, so the brain diseases lead to the premature death of the patient.
When should you go to the doctor?
If there are changes in brain function, a doctor’s visit is necessary. If there are memory gaps, orientation problems or impaired memory, a doctor is needed. If disorders of consciousness set in, if the person concerned complains of a feeling of pressure inside the head or if he suffers from a headache, he should see a doctor. If the symptoms spread or if the intensity of the symptoms increases, the signs need to be clarified. Before taking any pain-relieving medication, you should consult a doctor to avoid complications.
If you have trouble sleeping or speaking, if you are confused, have vision problems or have reduced hearing, you should consult a doctor. Personality changes, abnormal behavior or a sudden decrease in intelligence are uncommon. A doctor should be consulted for evaluation and treatment. If motor activities can no longer be carried out or if problems arise when performing everyday movements, the person concerned needs help.
Reduced performance, learning problems or abnormalities in cognitive processing must be examined. If there are circulatory disorders, a twitching in the head or changes in emotional processing, a doctor is needed. If inexplicable fears set in, if memories are obviously wrong, or if the person concerned suffers from sensory disturbances, a doctor should clarify the cause of the symptoms.
Treatment & Therapy
As far as the therapy of brain diseases is concerned in general, this depends on the disease in question, the extent of the affected brain areas and age, as well as the stage and prognosis. In many cases, medical intervention can only alleviate or focus on the symptoms, especially in cases where the cause of the disease is unclear and causal therapy is (currently) impossible.
In the case of brain diseases in which nerve cells perish (e.g. Parkinson’s disease or dementia) and thus motor control and performance or memory functions suffer more and more and are increasingly disturbed, therapy is limited to weakening the sometimes severe symptoms as far as possible with medication or eliminating them.to slow down the progression of the disease.
The aim of therapy here is to maintain the patient’s quality of life as well and for as long as possible and to reduce pain or symptoms. It is similar with psychiatric brain diseases such as schizophrenia or depression, in which the communication between the nerve cells is disrupted and severe mood swings and delusions can result. Here, too, a causal therapy is not yet possible in most cases and there are drug and psychotherapeutic options available that are intended to make the symptoms manageable.
Due to the complexity of the brain, direct intervention is rarely possible without major risks. Where drug therapies often have serious side effects (with sometimes unforeseeable long-term consequences), surgical measures are of course associated with a disproportionately higher risk. In the case of acute traumatic injuries and accidents involving the brain, however, these are life-saving in many cases. In the case of an acute craniocerebral trauma, emergency medical measures can usually only treat severe cerebral hemorrhage or edema with an operation and thus treat life-threatening hypertension in the brain.
Michael Schumacher’s accident, which has since caused a worldwide media sensation and sympathy, showed how “minor” external violence is sufficient to cause an acute, life-threatening brain injury. A relatively low speed and a “small” stone were enough to put a high-performance athlete with a helmet into a coma.
What modern medicine is able to do in such cases really deserves the greatest attention, because if left untreated, such a craniocerebral trauma would certainly lead to death as a result of bleeding, edema and pressure within the brain. Here immediate, and above all timely, intensive care therapy is life-saving. Many brain tumors can also be treated surgically, but here the stage of the cancer and especially the location of the brain tumor play a decisive role in the prognosis and the scope for therapeutic action.
In the case of neoplastic brain diseases, ie brain tumors or gliomas, therapists also have other treatment options, ranging from drug (eg chemotherapeutic) therapy to radiation. Here, however, the risk of irreversible brain damage (due to invasive or aggressively stressful therapies) must always be weighed against the risk of the primary disease for the benefit of the patient.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis for brain diseases is unfavorable in most cases. Basically, it depends on the underlying disease and the individual overall diagnosis of the patient. If the disease is progressive, the symptoms gradually increase in intensity. In diseases such as dementia or multiple sclerosis, a slow decay of the tissue or nerve cells is to be expected. According to the current scientific and medical status, the progression of such a chronic disease cannot be prevented.
If the brain tissue is damaged as a result of a one-time trigger, an improvement in health can be achieved under certain circumstances. This depends on the time of the first aid and the extent and location of the damaged brain tissue. However, a full recovery cannot be expected. It only occurs in isolated cases. Nevertheless, with optimal medical care, the symptoms can be alleviated. Because damaged brain tissue cannot be regenerated, existing impairments remain constant for many patients’ lives. This applies in particular if the affected areas of the brain represent important control points for the functionality of various systems in the organism.
If the person affected suffers from an infection, complete healing of the brain disease can be achieved with fast and optimal medical care.
Especially when it comes to brain diseases that can be influenced, i.e. lesions and trauma caused by accidents, extensive prevention is possible and urgently recommended: Putting on a helmet during sporting activities such as cycling, ice skating, skiing, tobogganing etc. should be done – especially for children, but of course even for adults – are an absolute must and a matter of course.
Serious head and brain injuries can occur at low speeds and in seemingly unspectacular accidents, leading to life-threatening brain diseases and injuries. Of course, in the broadest sense, safety measures to avoid swimming accidents, especially among children, are also part of this. Because the lack of oxygen supply to the brain cells can also irreversibly damage the brain or, of course, there is an immediate danger to life if water enters the lungs.
With regard to the numerous non-accidental brain diseases, preventive measures are difficult to narrow down. A healthy lifestyle, conscious self-observation and, if in doubt, early clarification can certainly be a sensible way of recognizing potential brain diseases early enough and thus being able to treat them effectively. However, no clear preventive measures can be recommended for many brain diseases due to the unclear pathogenesis.
This is also in view of the fact that some brain diseases are genetic and therefore difficult to influence or prevent through human activity. A generally healthy lifestyle, sufficient exercise and relaxation, healthy nutrition and avoiding excessive stress, but also excessive electromagnetic influences (keyword: mobile phone radiation), are certainly decisive for the health of the brain and are urgently recommended.
In most cases, those affected have very few or no aftercare measures or options at their disposal in the case of brain diseases. The brain diseases cannot always be treated, so that such a disease may also lead to a reduced life expectancy for those affected. An early diagnosis usually has a very positive effect on the further course of this disease and can limit further complications or a further deterioration of the symptoms.
In some cases, the symptoms can be relieved by surgery. After such an operation, bed rest should be observed in any case. The patient should rest and not exert himself. Since the brain diseases can also lead to mental disorders, depression or a changed personality, most patients also depend on the support and help of their own family and friends in everyday life.
This is especially true if some bodily functions are restricted by the brain disease. Even with tumors, most patients depend on mental support from those close to them. The further course depends heavily on the exact type of disease, so that no general prediction can be made.
You can do that yourself
Brain diseases can occur in a wide variety of forms, so that individual measures to improve them depend on the existing underlying disease.
There is often a brain tumor that requires medical and drug treatment as soon as possible. Own measures that contribute to a quick and significant improvement can only be taken to a limited extent in the case of an existing brain tumor. Only going to the doctor early is important and significant here. Home remedies or over-the-counter medicines will not improve a brain tumor. Only early diagnosis and treatment have a positive effect on the subsequent course of the disease.
Another common brain disease is dementia. There is damage to the short-term memory, so that recently received information is directly forgotten. However, people suffering from dementia can also take measures themselves that lead to improvement. The brain should not always have to process the same processes. Small mind games, getting to know new people or even normal everyday situations help to slow down dementia significantly.
The following therefore applies: In the case of existing brain diseases, there are only limited measures that the affected person can take themselves. It is important to go to the doctor early so that suitable therapy can be initiated.