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The Brain: Disease Awareness
March 20, 2019
The brain — the central “control unit” of our bodies, repository of memories and emotions. The main organ of the human nervous system, the brain manages most of our bodies’ activities and processes information received from both outside and inside the body and is the very seat of our emotions and cognitive abilities, including thought, long- and short-term memory, and decision-making.
Meningitis: An inflammation of the lining around the brain or spinal cord, usually due to infection; Neck stiffness, headache, fever, and confusion are common symptoms.
Encephalitis: An inflammation of the brain tissue, usually due to a viral infection; meningitis and encephalitis often occur together, which is called meningoencephalitis.
Brain abscess: A pocket of infection in the brain, usually caused by bacteria; antibiotics and surgical drainage of the area are often necessary.
Included in the seizure category of brain diseases is epilepsy, a condition characterized by recurring seizures caused by abnormal and excessive electrical activity in the brain. Head injuries, brain infections, and strokes may cause epilepsy, as well.
Concussion: A concussion, sometimes called a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), is the most common type of brain injury, accounting for hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits each year. Commonly caused by a sudden blow to the head, a concussion jolts your brain, causing the brain to accelerate in the direction of the force. In other words, a concussion shakes your brain.
Brain Contusion: A contusion is simply a bruise—a mild form of bleeding under the skin. Brain contusions are similar to concussions, and often occur in conjunction with them. If a brain contusion does not stop bleeding on its own, it may need to be surgically removed. The extent of damage associated with a brain contusion depends on the size of the bleed, the length of time it lasts, the effects of surgery, and the location of the injury.
Second Impact Syndrome: Just as a scab that is reopened takes longer to heal and may produce a scar, a second brain injury when you’ve already sustained a first can cause more catastrophic damage. Sometimes called a recurrent traumatic brain injury, the effect of second impact syndrome depends on the location of the injury, the severity of the first injury, and the degree of trauma sustained.
Diffuse Axonal Injury: DAI is similar to a concussion in that it results from the brain moving, but much more serious. With a DAI, the head so violently moves that the brain stem cannot keep up with the rate of movement, causing tears in the connections of the brain. These tears can be microscopic, producing varying degrees of brain damage. They can also be quite large. Tears that are sufficiently large can be fatal.
Shaken Baby Syndrome: Shaken baby syndrome is similar to diffuse axonal injury, but tends to produce more global effects. Now considered a form of criminal child abuse in most places, it often results from parents’ frustration with incessant crying. Shaken babies often suffer broken blood vessels and brain hemorrhages, strokes, and tears in the brain and brain stem. In many cases, shaken babies die. The effects are almost always catastrophic and long-lasting.
Brain tumor: Any abnormal tissue growth inside the brain; whether malignant (cancerous) or benign, brain tumors usually cause problems by the pressure they exert on the normal brain.
Glioblastoma: An aggressive, cancerous brain tumor; glioblastomas progress rapidly and are usually difficult to cure.
Hydrocephalus: An abnormally increased amount of cerebrospinal (brain) fluid inside the skull; usually, this is because the fluid is not circulating properly.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus: A form of hydrocephalus that often causes problems with walking, along with dementia and urinary incontinence; pressure inside the brain remains normal, despite the increased fluid.
Pseudotumor cerebri (false brain tumor): Increased pressure inside the skull with no apparent cause; vision changes, headaches, dizziness, and nausea are common symptoms.
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