Neurodegenerative diseases are incurable and debilitating conditions that result in the progressive degeneration or death of nerve cells. They cause movement problems (ataxias), and/or mental malfunctions (dementias).
This is a collective term for disorders associated with memory, communication and thinking problems which interfere to a significant extent with a person’s daily activities. The main disorders are:-
Accounting for 60% to 80% of dementia cases it mainly occurs after age 65 but can affect people in their 40s and 50s. Initially it affects the brain area concerned with learning and results in short-term memory problems. Progressively the symptoms become more severe and can include serious memory loss, difficulty speaking, confusion about events, mood changes and mobility problems.
This general term relates to memory and thinking difficulties caused by strokes and other injuries or conditions which cause damage to brain cells by impairing the blood circulation and hence the oxygen supply. Changes in behaviour, memory, speed of thought and other symptoms vary from person to person depending on the extent of the brain damage as does the rate of progression.
Dementia with Lewy bodies
Lewy bodies are small, disruptive protein deposits in the nerve cells concerned with memory, thinking and movement. Some of the disease symptoms may be similar to those of Parkinson’s (e.g. slow movement and rigidity) and/or Alzheimer’s (e.g. memory and judgement problems). Hallucinations, feelings of persecution, falls, and sleep and attention disorders are typical features. Diagnosis and treatment can be difficult and at present there is no cure.
This group of disorders results from progressive cell degeneration in the areas of the brain behind the forehead and above and behind the ears. They tend to occur at a younger age (45+) than Alzheimer’s and heredity might be a factor in 50% of cases. Initially each type has distinctive features (click find out more button for details) but the behavioural & other problems become increasingly similar as the disease progresses.
This is a disorder of the nervous system resulting in tremor, slow movement and stiff and inflexible muscles which gets gradually worse. More men than women get PD of which the symptoms usually appear after the age of 50 but in about 5% of cases they occur before age 40. At present there is no cure but treatments are available which alleviate the symptoms. Although everyday life can become more difficult as the disease progresses it usually has no impact on life expectancy.
This is a debilitating and progressive disease of the central nervous system that damages the protective cover, myelin sheath, that surrounds nerve fibres and consequently disrupts the speed and efficiency with which they transmit messages to and from the brain. It is more common in women than men and usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40. The symptoms can vary widely and include fatigue, spasms, and problems relating to vision, speech, thinking, bladder & bowel control. At present there is no cure but various treatments are available which help to alleviate the symptoms.
Motor Neurone Disease
Motor Neurone Disease, which is also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), is an umbrella term for conditions that progressively damage and eventually result in the death of the nerves (motor neurones) in the brain and spinal cord that control the muscles responsible for voluntary movement. As a result the transmission of messages to muscles in the face, throat, chest and limbs are interrupted to varying extents and muscle wastage and spasticity occurs. There is no cure but treatments are available which help to alleviate the symptoms.
Other Neurodegenerative Diseases
The lines which separate one neurodegenerative disease from another are often unclear. More than 10% of people with dementia probably have more than one type and up to 5% of dementias can be associated with another disease. Rarer types of neurodegenerative disease include Huntington’s disease, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, Spinocerebellar ataxia, Spinal muscular atrophy, Multiple System Atrophy, and the Prion diseases – – notably Classic and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.