Brain Health – 3 Types of Brain Disorders and What Causes Them

doctor looking at brain scansUsually we talk about physical fitness, but as many of us age, brain health becomes a growing concern. We have talked about head injuries caused by sports previously; today we’re looking the most common brain problems that people face during their lives.

Our brain is one of the most important organs in our body, if not THE most important. It makes us who we are – forms our feelings, memories, thoughts, keeps us moving, and our heart beating.  We need to look after this precious thing and ensure it does not get damaged.  A damaged brain can change everything about us – our personality, movements and coordination, and how we process our thoughts. Here are 3 types of brain disorders and what causes them.

Brain Injuries

Bumps or blows to the head can disrupt the brain’s normal function and cause traumatic brain injury (TBI). In contrast, non-traumatic acquired brain injuries are caused by factors within the body such as toxin exposure, oxygen deprivation, or pressure from a brain tumor.

When a person has a fall or is hit on the head, the brain may strike the inside of the skull, or if they are hit with a sharp instrument, the skull may be fractured and the brain punctured. A brain injuries can cause swelling of the brain or edema, concussion, hematoma, and damage to the axons of the brain, leading to the loss of certain bodily functions. We are still only starting to understand the long-term implications of concussion – many contact sports are now recognising that head injuries are more common than previously thought.

An uncontrollable bleed or hemorrhage may occur in the brain if a person suffers trauma to the head but can also happen if a blood vessel in the brain bursts. If blood flow is cut off to the brain through an artery blockage, blood clot, or a burst blood vessel, brain cells will begin to die. This is known as a stroke.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Named after the doctor who discovered unusual plaques in a woman’s brain, Alois Alzheimer, this disease affects a person’s memory, reasoning, and judgment and may cause delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. People with this disease have protein clumps called amyloid plaques and bunches of tangled fibers known as neurofibrillary tangles in their brains. As these plaques and fibers spread, the severity of the disease will increase, and eventually, the sufferers will be bedridden and unable to do anything for themselves.

The cause of Alzheimer’s isn’t clear. It is believed that a genetic mutation may cause early-onset and that many cases are caused by a combination of genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors.  As yet, scientists do not have a cure for the condition or know how to prevent it. However, it is thought that suffering from conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure can increase a person’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain Tumours

A brain tumor is a mass in the brain that can be benign or malignant. The cause of the brain developing a tumor is unknown, but chances may be increased by exposure to radiation, the cancer spreading to the brain from another part of the body and the natural aging process. Symptoms of a brain tumor include dizziness, mood swings, personality changes, memory problems, apathy, and numbness in the arms and legs. Depending on the tumor’s size and nature, they can be treated with surgery, medicine, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.

More recently, we have learned that viruses can cause injury to the brain. Many people with coronavirus has described having brain fog, with periods of confusion and clouded thinking. Some people are experiencing symptoms after the coronavirus has cleared up, in what is now termed long Covid.

The brain is a very complex subject, too complex for a short blog post, but one that is vital importance. The more health scientists understand it, the better we can become at maintaining good brain health and curing diseases. Hopefully soon we’ll have a working cure for Alzheimer’s and better treatments for brain cancer.

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