What Causes Brain Diseases and Neurological Disorders? 

According to the American Brain Foundation, 1 in 6 people are affected by brain and neurological diseases. The brain is a large, complex organ that works in conjunction with the spinal cord and a network of nerves and neurons to control everything the body does. Brain disorders can affect the entire nervous system or a single neuron. Even a small disruption to normal function can cause noticeable symptoms.

The causes of brain diseases and disorders are as varied and complex as the functions of the brain itself.

Some of the main causes include genetics, lifestyle-related factors, infections, traumatic brain injuries, and environmental influences.

Some common neurological disorders include:

  • Parkinson’s disease — Signs of Parkinson’s disease include slow and stiff movements, tremors, loss of balance, difficulty walking, and speech impairment. It is caused by a loss of dopamine-producing brain cells.
  • Huntington’s disease — Some brain diseases, such as Huntington’s, are caused by genetics. Huntington’s can be diagnosed through a clinical exam, family history, or genetic testing. Some of the symptoms are similar to the signs of Parkinson’s disease, including involuntary jerking movements, muscle problems, and impaired gait, posture, and balance. Other symptoms include slow or abnormal eye movements and difficulty with swallowing or the physical production of speech.
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease — Signs of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease include slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, extreme emotional reactions, hoarseness, tongue atrophy, excess saliva, and difficulty breathing. Unfortunately, there is currently no ALS cure available to patients.
  • Multiple sclerosis — Signs of MS include weakness in the arms and legs, blurred vision, speech problems, tremors, and sometimes paralysis. There are MS treatments, but there is no known cure.
  • Cerebral palsy — Cerebral palsy causes a person to have difficulty with their movements and maintaining their balance and posture. It is caused by accidental oxygen starvation at birth. Despite there being no current cure, cerebral palsy treatment has been shown to improve the lives of those who have it.

In addition to the conditions listed above, epilepsy, migraine and headache disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and stroke are all disorders that affect the central and peripheral nervous system.

Complications of Brain Diseases

Having a neurological disorder or brain disease can lead to a variety of serious complications. The long-term and short-term effects of neurological disorders vary depending on the type and severity of the condition, but many are associated with emotional difficulties including anxiety, depression, mood swings, delusions, and sudden outbursts. According to MS Watch, 50 percent of patients with MS also experience depression at least once.

Many neurological diseases, like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, are progressive and will become more severe over time, increasing the risk of complications like pain, difficulty sleeping, urinary problems, constipation, changes to blood pressure, and dementia. Some Parkinson’s medications and MS treatments minimize the risk and severity of these complications, but they can still become disabling for some patients. Those who suffer from ALS are at risk for pneumonia, aspiration, lung failure, pressure sores, and weight loss.

Long-term complications of many neurological disorders include:

  • Loss of capability for self-care
  • Loss of mobility
  • Diminished ability to maintain relationships
  • Difficulty processing speech
  • Psychological distress
  • Shortened lifespan, which may necessitate gradual end-of-life care
  • Heightened risk of infection and disease in general

Complications of neurological disorders can manifest in many different ways and have a profound effect on a person’s life, often becoming incapacitating without treatment.

What Does Long-Term Care for Patients with Neurological Disease Look Like? 

Kindred Hospitals specialize in the care of seriously ill, medically complex patients who need to see a physician every day while on their road to recovery. Because of this, we are able to care for patients who have a brain disease or neurological disorder but the condition is not likely the main reason someone is admitted to our hospital.

If a patient has a progress brain disease or neurological disorder, like Parkinson’s, ALS, and MS, they may need specialized, long-term care, such as the care provided at a skilled nursing facility.  

“Many neurological conditions can decrease mobility and strength, or cause dysphagia (swallowing disorders) and are treated with physical, occupational, and speech/language therapy as well as required medical procedures,” says Dr. Dean French, Chief Medical Officer.

“People who suffer from these conditions often develop added complications from falls, advanced wounds, or difficulty recovering from surgeries. In situations where a patient is suffering from an acute injury in addition to their neurological disease, Kindred Hospitals’ interdisciplinary team can offer specialize expertise in caring for not only the acute medical need but the holistic patient and their brain disease,” says Dr. French. “At Kindred, our team creates customized treatment plans based on each patient’s individual needs.”

Kindred’s network of Acute Care Hospitals provide extended recovery and specialized care that may include:

  • Brain monitoring
  • Patient/family education on the patient’s condition and options
  • Special precautions to prevent deep vein thrombosis, stress ulcers, aspiration, infection, wounds, and falls
  • Respiratory therapy
  • Cardiac monitoring
  • Nutritional assessment and support
  • Pain management
  • Rehabilitation in the form of physical, occupational, and speech therapies
  • Bowel and bladder training
  • Financial planning for extended care
  • Home care education for family

At Kindred, our goal is to provide your loved one with the time and specialized support they need to return home, or to transition to the next level of care. We collaborate with a variety of discharge options, including home, assisted living facilities, acute and subacute rehabilitation centers, and nursing centers.

Success Spotlight: Kathy's Story

On the Road to Recovery

Just two years ago, Kathy was independent and able to walk normally. She had previously worked as a pharmacy clerk and lived at home with her husband and family. Sadly, Kathy suffers from progressive, disabling multiple sclerosis and was showing increasing signs of MS, such as recurrent falls that stemmed from a gradual loss of sensation in her hips and legs.

Kathy had also endured abdominal surgery and developed a complex pressure ulcer from prolonged bed rest, due to her incapacity and loss of mobility. After hospitalization at another facility, she came to Kindred Hospital to receive physical and occupational therapy and advanced wound care.

Kathy’s multiple sclerosis treatment was managed by a care team that worked diligently to help her regain strength and participate more fully in her rehabilitation. Her nurses and therapists helped Kathy develop a more positive outlook, which fueled her desire to get better. “The staff here have motivated me to work hard at my recovery,” Kathy shares. “I can take more steps now than when I first arrived and am getting less tired when I do my walking therapy.”

Kathy also expressed gratitude for being able to attend a special event while still at Kindred. “Despite the complications from my MS disease, I was able to attend my son’s wedding. This really is a great place to go for your healthcare.”

During her stay at Kindred, Kathy was able to make significant progress and was discharged to a skilled nursing facility to continue getting better before returning home to her family. “I can’t wait to get back in the kitchen and cook my husband his favorite meal,” says Kathy.