Different problems with the brain can have various causes, such as illness, genetics, or injury. Each comes with different risks, diagnoses, and treatments.
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.
Brain injuries are often caused by blunt trauma. Trauma can damage your 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
- 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:
- brain surgery
Many people with severe brain injuries need surgery to remove or repair damaged tissue or to relieve pressure. People with minor brain injuries may not need any treatment beyond pain medication.
Most people with brain injuries need rehabilitation. This can include:
- physical therapy
- speech and language therapy
- psychiatric services
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.
Brain tumors can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous). Doctors classify brain tumors as grades 1, 2, 3, or 4. Higher numbers indicate more aggressive 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:
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
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- all forms of dementia
Some of the more common
Neurodegenerative diseases cause permanent damage, so symptoms tend to get worse as the disease progresses. New symptoms are also likely to develop over time.
There’s no cure for neurodegenerative diseases, but treatment can help. The goal of treatment for these conditions it to try to reduce your symptoms and help you maintain quality of life. Treatment often involves the use of medications to better manage your symptoms.
Mental health disorders
Mental health disorders, or mental health conditions, are a large and diverse group of issues that affect your behavior patterns. Some of the most frequently diagnosed mental health disorders are:
The symptoms of mental health conditions vary based on the condition. Different people can experience the same disorder very differently. You should talk with your doctor if you notice a change in your behavior, thought patterns, or moods.
The two major types of treatment for mental health conditions are medication and psychotherapy. Different methods work better for different conditions. Many people find that a combination of the two is the most effective.
If you think you might have a mental health disorder, it’s important to talk and work with a doctor to create a treatment plan that works for you. There are many resources available — do not try to self-medicate.
Brain disorders can affect anyone. Risk factors are different for different types of brain disorders.
Traumatic brain injury is
Brain tumors can affect people at any age. Your personal risk depends on your genetics and your exposure to environmental risk factors like radiation.
Older age and family history are the most significant risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases.
Mental health disorders are very common. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that about 1 in 5 American adults has experienced a mental health condition. Your risk may be higher if you:
A primary care physician or a neurological specialist can diagnose a brain disorder.
They will likely perform a neurological exam to check your vision, hearing, and balance. They 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.
Your doctor might also need to study fluid from your brain and spinal cord. This helps them find bleeding in the brain, infection, and other abnormalities.
Mental health disorders are usually diagnosed based on an evaluation of your symptoms and history.
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 health disorders live full, quality lives.
Other disorders, like neurodegenerative diseases and some traumatic brain injuries, have no cure. People with these conditions may often face permanent changes in their behavior, mental abilities, or coordination. In these cases, treatment centers around helping you manage the illness and retain as much independence as possible.