Overview of Nervous System Disorders in Children
What is the nervous system?
The nervous system is a complex, sophisticated system that regulates and coordinates body activities. It's made up of 2 major divisions:
In addition to the brain and spinal cord, main organs of the nervous system include:
What can damage the nervous system?
The nervous system is vulnerable to various disorders and can be damaged by:
What are the symptoms of nervous system disorders?
The following are the most common symptoms of nervous system disorders. But each child may have slightly different symptoms. Different disorders will cause different symptoms to happen. Symptoms may include:
Delays in physical or mental developmental milestones
Increase or lack of growth in head size
Changes in activity, reflexes, or movements
Lack of coordination
Changes in level of consciousness or mood
Muscle rigidity, tremors, or seizures
Muscle wasting and slurred speech
Older children may also report persistent or severe headaches, loss of feeling or tingling, or visual changes
The symptoms of a nervous system disorder may look like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Healthcare providers who treat nervous system disorders
The best way to manage nervous system disorders is with the help of a team of healthcare professionals. You may not need all members of the team at any given time but it's good to know who they are and how they can help. Here is a list of some of the healthcare providers that may be involved in treating nervous system disorders:
Neurologist. The medical healthcare providers who diagnose and treat nervous system disorders are called neurologists. Some neurologists treat acute strokes and cerebral aneurysms using endovascular techniques.
Neurosurgeon. Surgeons who operate as a treatment team for nervous system disorders are called neurological surgeons or neurosurgeons.
Neuroradiologist and interventional radiologist. This is a radiologist who specializes in diagnosing nervous system conditions using imaging and in treating nervous system conditions such as cerebral aneurysms, acute strokes, and vertebral fractures. This provider also does biopsies of certain tumors.
Psychologist. Emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, and irritability are common in nervous system disorders. Your child's psychologist can help. Psychologists may do testing to find out how much your child's disorder is affecting the way they think and feel. Psychologists also do talk therapy (counseling) to help your child deal with the emotional effects caused nervous system disorders.
Psychiatrist. Like your child's psychologist, this team member deals with emotional and behavior symptoms caused by nervous system disorders. In most cases, talk therapy works best for these problems. But if your child needs medicines to treat symptoms such as depression or anxiety, this doctor can help.
Physiatrist. Healthcare providers who work with children in the rehab (rehabilitation) process are called physiatrists.
Physical therapist. This is a movement specialist who can help your child move and walk well. In physical therapy, your child can also work on painful or stiff muscles and joints.
Occupational therapist. This provider helps your child learn to handle day-to-day activities. For example, your child might have trouble doing tasks they need to do at school or at home. Your child's occupational therapist will help them find ways to adjust to any changes in their physical abilities.
Speech/language pathologist. This provider specializes in communication, including cognitive communication. They also diagnose and treat swallowing problems.