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Neurological Problems: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Aug 05, 2021

What can cause neurological problems?

Neurological problems refers to the condition in which the brain, nerves and spinal cord are adversely affected. There may be different causes which specifically include genetic disorder, congenital abnormalities, infections, lifestyle and various health related issues such as malnutrition and injuries involving brain, nerves and spinal cord.

How do you diagnose neurological problems?

The diagnosis of neurological problems is usually done by the neurological examination which is done to check any abnormalities relating to the central nervous system(CNS). The examination includes performing a series of tests which involves parts of CNS such as the brain, nerves and spinal cord. The tests are done to check the various functions of the CNS like balance, muscle strength and other functions.

When should you see a neurologist?

Consultation with a neurologist is necessary in case of neurological disorders. However, some conditions which indicates the need for this include the presence of neuropathic pain, the presence of certain conditions such as migraine, seizures, multiple sclerosis, brain or spinal cord injury, stroke, disease like Parkinson's disease and loss of memory.

Can neurological problems be cured?

There is not a complete cure for neurological problems, but the treatment is quite possible. Following the proper diagnosis by neurological examination, an early treatment should be done in order to minimize the severity of the disease. The disease progresses rapidly, so it should be treated so as to prevent any risks of permanent damage.

What is the treatment?

Neurological problems or disorders are diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system. The central and peripheral nervous system comprises of brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves, nerve roots, peripheral nerves, autonomic nervous system, neuromuscular junction and muscles. Nervous disorders are generally caused by viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections affecting the nervous system. The disorders include Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, epilepsy, cerebrovascular diseases like migraine, stroke and other headache disorders. Other neurological problems include Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, neuroinfections, brain tumors, traumatic disorders of the nervous system due to head trauma and also neurological disorders due to malnutrition.

There are different kinds of treatment for different types of neurological problems. Medications can be used orally, topically or intravenously. Device based therapies such as deep-brain stimulation, surgeries including procedures to remove tumors, physical therapy and rehabilitation are also treatments that can be used to cure such disorders.

There are movement disorder treatments for Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, multiple sclerosis and spasicity. State-of-the-art treatment strategies have been devised to treat multiple sclerosis as well as less common demyelinating disorders like neuromyelitis optica. Medications can be used to reduce the risk of recurrence and also to treat acute conditions like cerebrovascular disease and stroke. Furthermore, there are different treatments for neuroAIDS, epilepsy, headache, vestibular system, cognitive disorders and neuromuscular tiseases. Other key treatments for neurological problems include brain mapping, cyberknife, deep brain stimulation and gamma knife.

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How is the treatment done?

Cognitive disorders are neurological problems that may occur in any person. There is no overarching cause for cognitive impairment and so there is no ideal treatment or uniform result for the person seeking a solution. However drugs can be used to boost neurotransmitter levels so as to aid the patient’s learning and memorizing capabilities. Occupational therapy is useful to teach strategies to the patients so that they are able to minimize the effect that cognitive impairment has on day-to-day activities. Reducing clutter and noise around the affected person would make it easier for him/her to reduce confusion and focus on tasks.

Brain mapping technique has been used by doctors to remove brain tumors as much as possible while minimizing the impact on the crucial areas of the brain that control movement, speech and the senses. Surgeons use 3-dimensional technology to accurately target the dissection down to the smallest degree while operating on the brain.

The Cyberknife is one of the most advanced forms of radio-surgery that is used to successfully treat small to medium sized tumors within the brain and spine and also within the lung, digestive system and other parts of the body. This procedure treats all areas of the tumor and recovery is often immediate. It takes the help of a moving robotic arm.

The Deep Brain Stimulation is an advanced form of brain surgery that was developed to treat Parkinson’s disease. The DBS functions as a ‘pacemaker’ for the brain and uses electrodes implanted in the brain to send out electrical impulses different areas in the brain linked to the disorders.

The Gamma knife is an advanced radiation therapy to treat small to medium brain tumors, abnormal blood vessel formations, epilepsy, trigeminal neuralgia and other neurological conditions.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

A person who has been diagnosed by a professional medical personnel to be suffering from a neurological disorder is eligible for treatment. A person can seek treatment for neurological disorders if he/she is experiencing some or all of the following physical symptoms: partial or complete paralysis, muscle weakness, partial or complete loss of sensation, difficulty in reading and writing, seizures, poor cognitive abilities, decreased alertness and unexplained pain. Some of the physical manifestations that help you to understand whether you are eligible for treatment or not include: headaches, blurry vision, changes in behavior, numbness in the legs and arms, changes in coordination or balance, weakness, tremors and slurred speech.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Any person who has not been diagnosed by a doctor as suffering from neurological disorders is not eligible for treatment. Neurological problems are rather complex and have definite symptoms. A person without any of the symptoms is not eligible.

Are there any side effects?

Some of the side-effects of gamma knife surgery include nausea and vomiting, headaches, dizziness, hair loss at the place where radiation was directed, tenderness where the screws or pins were placed and also damage to surrounding issues in the brain caused by swelling.

There are no long-term side-effects for treating neurological problems with the brain-mapping procedure. However some short-term side-effects may include increased irritability, mood changes and reduced appetite.

As with any other radiation treatment, the side effects can be severe in some patients and lead to some permanent injuries or in some cases may also cause death.

Deep brain stimulation may cause temporary pain and swelling at the implantation site, headaches, infections, seizures and may also cause confusion.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Neurological problems are such problems which affect the brain and spinal cord. Thus these problems cannot be solved in the same orthodox fashion as other diseases that plague our body. Whether you take medications or undergo a surgery, these problems take time to subside. Thus it is better to go for regular check-ups to the doctor and take necessary precautions. In some cases, people will have to take medications throughout their lives and require regular monitoring of their condition.

How long does it take to recover?

Gamma knife surgery has a number of side-effects like headache, irritation at the point of insertion and nausea. These effects generally subside within a few days . Some people feel tired for a few days but this can be overcome with enough rest and a balanced diet.

Diseases like Parkinsons’ are slowly progressive degenerative disorders and complete treatment is not possible. It is said that a person can die with Parkinsons’ disease and not from it. Cognitive diseases are also long-term ailments and patients normally have to be on medication and go for check-ups regularly. Thus it is difficult to gauge how much time will be required to recover from the treatment of neurological problems.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

Cost of treating Alzheimer’s disease is very high and may cost more than 2 lakh rupees per month. The cost of a gamma knife surgery is usually more than 4 lakhs and it epends on the condition of the patient and what kind of hospital and other facilities you are availing. Deep brain stimulation can cost anything between 16-20 lakhs in our country. Medication for cognitive disorders may vary between Rs 5000 to more than Rs 3 lakhs.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

Neurological disorders impair certain bodily functions as they impact the brain and spinal cord. A permanent solution is almost never possible in such types of ailments. This is because the brain cells and other nervous cells which get affected cannot be revived back. What medications or other forms of treatments necessarily do is to stop the spreading of these disorders and reduce the symptoms. For example, a person suffering from a cognitive disease will never be completely free from its symptoms. Medications will help him/her to deal with the symptoms but they will not eradicate them completely.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

Clinical trials have succeeded to some extent in providing an alternative method of treatment for neurological problems like Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical trials can include behavioral interventions, exercises and physical treatments with the help of electromagnetic devices, acupuncture and also surgery. Many of these clinical trials are based on the harmful effects of a harmful protein called amyloid-beta. This protein is present in the brain can interfere with synapses, present in nerve cells, which are involved in transmitting electrical or chemical signals to other nerve cells. Thus it can prove to be an effective alternative treatment.

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Written ByDr. Arun Sharma MBBS,MS - General Surgery,MCh - Neuro SurgeryNeurology
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