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Knowing the Signs and Symptoms of Brain Disease

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brain disease-diagnosis-als-mci-mild cognitive impairment-dementia

Brain disease impacts 1 in 6 people, or more than 1 billion people worldwide. Many brain diseases have signs and symptoms that, if detected early, may lead to more effective diagnosis and treatment.

James C. Stevens, M.D., FAAN

Fort Wayne Neurological Center

One major challenge in brain disease treatment is the time it can take between the appearance of the first symptoms and a patient getting a diagnosis. Earlier detection means more time spent treating diseases in the early stages, potentially slowing the development of the most disabling symptoms.

Early signs of ALS

Muscle twitching is a common early sign of ALS. This twitching is associated with weakness or shrinking of the muscles, referred to as atrophy. Some forms of ALS also affect muscles in the mouth and tongue, which makes it difficult to speak clearly.

Early signs of MCI

Signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) include persistent difficulty with short-term memory, including issues with language recall. Someone experiencing MCI may have trouble finding the right words during a conversation or take longer than usual when figuring out complex tasks. Researchers have found that people who present with mild cognitive impairment symptoms are more likely to develop dementia later in life.

Forms of dementia

Dementia refers to numerous conditions resulting in impaired memory, language, and other cognitive functions. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, but there are others with different patterns of early symptoms. Early signs of Lewy body dementia (LBD) may involve physical symptoms like tremors or stiffness. While Parkinson’s itself is not dementia, 20% to 50% of people with Parkinson’s eventually develop additional cognitive symptoms.

Risk factors for strokes

The No. 1 risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. Other common risk factors include high cholesterol, smoking, and excessive drinking. Blood sugar issues and diabetes can contribute to vascular disease, which can increase one’s risk of stroke.

When to see a physician

If you have concerns regarding any of the symptoms above, it is best to see a physician as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to assess whether these symptoms are simply part of the aging process or need to be investigated further.

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