Neurological Disorders Guides & Articles

Alana Luna
Last updated:
Brindusa Vanta, MD, DHMHS
Medical Editor

What Is a Neurological Disorder?

Neurological disorders affect the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord (the central nervous system) as well as the network of nerves that runs throughout the human body (the peripheral nervous system). (1) The peripheral nervous system also includes the autonomic nervous system,  which controls automatic functions like breathing, blood pressure, and digestion. 

Abnormalities that affect the structure and/or electrical systems relating to that nervous system can result in a slew of issues ranging from poor coordination to learning disabilities to total incapacitation.

There is an overlap between neurological diseases and psychiatric conditions, as both manage brain conditions. Neurological disorders involve some form of damage or degeneration of the nervous system, while psychiatric illnesses affect mood, memory, and behavior (2).

The World Health Organization estimates there are hundreds of millions of people worldwide who suffer from some type of neurological disorder. This includes approximately 50 million people with epilepsy, 47.5 million people with dementia, and over 6 million people who die from a stroke. (3)

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Living With: Schizophrenia
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Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe mental disorder in which a person has a hard time telling the difference between what is real and not real. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 1 percent of the population suffers from this disorder. The disease can also affect families. Individuals with schizophrenia usually have difficulty […]

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Schizophrenia is a brain disease that affects approximately three million people in the United States alone. It is a highly treatable disease, and there are many new treatments for schizophrenia that can help improve people’s lives. What Is Schizophrenia? There are three types of schizophrenia, which are divided by the types of symptoms: positive, negative, […]

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Living With: Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
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Sharing a life and a home with someone who has premenstrual dysphoric disorder can be a challenge if you are unprepared. The symptoms of PMDD, if left untreated, can be disruptive to the sufferer’s life and the lives of everyone she lives with. Fortunately, there are studies, treatments and support to help everyone cope with […]

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Epilepsy is a set of chronic neurological disorders that are characterized by seizures. The seizures may be provoked or unprovoked, and they may be recurrent. A single seizure that is combined with some brain alterations can increase the chance of seizures in the future. Who Gets Epilepsy? Epilepsy results from the excessive or abnormal activity […]

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The study of neurology has had a long and fascinating history, and it’s one that has been fraught with misunderstandings and missteps. The brain is perhaps one of the most complex structures in the body, and it’s comprised partially of neurons – perhaps as many as 100 billion of them, according to UCLA’s neuroimaging lab. […]

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According to the University of California, San Francisco, there are more than 600 neurological disorders. Neurological disorders are diseases that affect the brain and the central and autonomic nervous systems. In recognizing the signs and symptoms of neurological problems, it is first important to distinguish the various types of neurological disorders. What Are the Types […]

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Intellectual disability is fairly common, and it occurs in approximately 1 to 2 percent of people. Psychiatric and behavior problems occur three to six times more in these individuals than in the general population, so the assessment of these patients is important in treating these issues. How Is Intellectual Disability Diagnosed? Intellectual disability is normally […]

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What Are the Most Common Neurological Disorders?

There are an estimated 600 neurological diseases and conditions, most of which fall into one of these major categories. (4)

Genetic Diseases

Genetic neurological disorders, such as Tay-Sachs disease and muscular dystrophy, are caused by mutations of genes related to brain development and function. (5)

Developmental Disorders/Abnormalities

Neurological disorders related to developmental abnormalities are typically signified by conditions that are present at birth or develop during childhood. Spina bifida, ADD, and autism all fall into this category.

Degenerative Diseases

Alzheimer’s diseases and Parkinson’s disease are both degenerative neurological disorders caused by damage and degeneration of brain cells.

Blood Vessel Diseases

Blood vessel diseases can affect the brain through events like a stroke, where diseased vessels alter blood supply and prevent brain tissue from receiving much-needed oxygen and nutrients.

Nervous System Injuries

Accidents that injure the spinal cord and brain can cause neurological disorders. Examples include chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is linked to repeated concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Seizure Disorders

Seizure disorders, like epilepsy, result from nerve cell disturbances in the brain that cause sudden bursts of abnormal electrical activity.


Neurological cancers, such as brain tumors, are caused by abnormal cell division and growth.


Herpes encephalitis, meningitis, toxoplasmosis, tropical spastic paraparesis, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are all neurological disorders caused by infections. (6)

What Causes Neurological Disorders?

As mentioned above, there are several possible causes of neurological disorders: (7)

  • Genetics
  • Infections
  • Degeneration
  • Injuries/trauma
  • Tumors
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Blood flow disruption

Any one of those factors could change the structure, chemistry, or normal function of the nervous system enough to cause problems. In some cases, it’s just one factor identified—a gene variation, for instance. In other cases, it may be a “perfect storm” of factors, like environmental problems exacerbating trauma or degenerative disorders coexisting with autoimmune disease.

What Are Neurological Symptoms?

Symptoms of neurological problems differ based on the type of disorder and other factors. Some of the most common signs of neurological disease include: (7)

  • Headache that’s persistent or occurs suddenly
  • Muscle weakness or rigidity
  • Poor coordination
  • Loss of sensation or numbness and tingling
  • Seizures
  • Pain, either localized or radiating into the extremities (or both)
  • Altered levels of consciousness
  • Double vision or other sight issues
  • Memory loss
  • Learning disabilities
  • Slurred speech and other types of language impairment

How Are Neurological Disorders Diagnosed?

Typically, a family doctor or neurologist starts with taking a family and medical history and then ordering tests. (8)

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): Measures brain waves to gauge electrical activity
  • Electromyography (EMG): Uses nerve stimulation to measure muscle response and/or electrical activity
  • Evoked potentials (EP): Measures electrical activity in brain and spinal cord in response to certain stimuli 
  • Imaging tests: Tests like a computer tomography (CT), ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help pinpoint structural abnormalities, injuries, and other potential issues

Genetic testing and sleep studies are two other options for gauging the brain activity and uncovering potential for hereditary neurological problems, respectively.

Best Treatment for Neurological Disorders

Treatment for neurological disorders can vary wildly, depending on the disorder and root causes, and multiple doctors may need to work together. For instance, someone suffering a stroke may need attention from a cardiologist and vascular surgeon to perform a balloon angioplasty or receive a carotid artery stent. (9)

Other patients may rely solely on a neurologist, or there may be a whole team of doctors, including psychiatrists, physical therapists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, pain management doctors, dieticians, and occupational therapists.

Treatment options for neurological disorders include:

  • Prescription medication
  • Surgery
  • Physical therapy
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Various therapies for pain management

How to Cope With a Neurological Disorder

Being diagnosed with a neurological disorder can be both a relief and a source of fear and distress. Many neurological disorders don’t have a cure, while others demand intense, ongoing treatment to help manage symptoms and preserve as much quality of life as possible.

For those battling neurological issues, it’s crucial to have a support time that includes healthcare professionals as well as loved ones. Lifestyle changes, such as stress management and eating a balanced diet, are also important. (10)

Above all, remember that even if a cure isn’t available, there is still hope, with many researchers currently invested in studying neurological conditions to find new, more effective treatment options. Find help treating a neurological disorder today. 

How to Help Someone with a Neurological Disorder

Supporting a loved one with a neurological disorder demands compassion and understanding. Some symptoms are painful and debilitating. Others, like slurred speech, can result in judgment from onlookers.

Approach conversations from a place of empathy. Ask for ways to be most helpful instead of assuming. Some days, a listening ear may be the best way to assist. Other days, support might look like running errands or assisting in therapy.

Also be aware of how a loved one’s disease can impact caregivers, and seek out support groups and individual therapy as needed.