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nervous system is a complex, highly specialized network. It organizes,
explains, and directs interactions between you and the world around you. The
nervous system controls:
The nervous system is divided into the brain and spinal cord
(central nervous system, or CNS) and the nerve cells
that control voluntary and involuntary movements (peripheral nervous system, or PNS).
The symptoms of a nervous system problem
depend on which area of the nervous system is involved and what is causing the
problem. Nervous system problems may occur slowly and cause a gradual loss of
function (degenerative). Or they may occur suddenly and cause life-threatening
problems (acute). Symptoms may be mild or severe. Some serious conditions,
diseases, and injuries that can cause nervous system problems include:
A sudden (acute) nervous system problem can cause many
different symptoms, depending on the area of the nervous system involved.
transient ischemic attack (TIA) are common examples of
acute problems. You may experience the sudden onset of one or more symptoms,
Seizures can also cause sudden changes in
consciousness, feeling (sensation), emotion, or thought. Abnormal body
movements, such as muscle twitching, may or may not be present. How often the
seizures occur and how severe they are depend on the cause of the seizures and
the area of the brain involved. For more information, see the topic
Diabetes can cause problems
with balance, either as a result of peripheral neuropathy or stroke.
dizziness are problems of balance and coordination
(equilibrium). Vertigo is often caused by a
medicine or a problem of the inner ear or brain.
dehydration, blood pressure problems, and other
diseases can all cause feelings of dizziness. For more information, see the
Dizziness: Lightheadedness and Vertigo.
Most headaches are not caused by serious central nervous system problems.
The pain that comes with a headache can range from a throbbing or a piercing
pain, such as with a
migraine, to severe pain that comes and goes over
several days, such as with
cluster headaches. Headaches are usually caused by
problems with the sinuses, scalp, or muscles of or around the head. For more
information, see the topic
Check your symptoms
to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
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Specific home treatment for
symptoms related to a
nervous system problem depends on the cause of the
problem. Check your symptoms to determine if and when you
need to see your doctor. Keep a diary of your symptoms to review with your doctor at your next
appointment. See an example of a
diary of symptomsdiary of symptoms(What is a PDF document?).
For more information on ways to make your home safe when you have nervous system problems, see the topic Preventing Falls.
Call your doctor if your symptoms become more frequent or
severe during home treatment.
Follow the prevention guidelines
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
September 1, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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