Neurological disorders are anomalies of the nervous system comprising the brain, spine and the nerves connected to them. The nervous system comprises of a collection of specialized cells known as neurons and nerves that transmit signals between different parts of the brain. Any changes in the structural, biochemical or electrical connections in this system can result in a range of traumatic symptoms. There are more than 600 different types of nerve diseases and sadly, many of them affect children too. Some of the common neurological disorders that effect children include brain tumors, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, ADHD, Developmental disorders, Bipolar disorders, Learning disabilities, craniofacial abnormalities, muscular dystrophies, Bell’s palsy, autism, etc. Neurological disorders caused by infections include meningitis, polio and encephalitis, so timely vaccination becomes a factor here.
Some of the causes of these central nervous diseases are trauma, infections, autoimmune disorders, structural defects, familial history or tumors amongst other causes. Sometimes psychiatric disorders arise due to these neurological insults. Though these developmental and behavioral disorders aren’t so rare, they are still very poorly understood and accepted by society. Most children with such conditions are further ridiculed by society, adding to their woes. Parents too need to be educated that many of these conditions can be treatment or managed better by seeking appropriate medical help, instead of hiding these children into oblivion. The most common neurological disorder among children is mental retardation followed by cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders.
The range of neurological disorders in children spans a broad spectrum, with each disorder creating a major impact on the child’s life; this makes it important to identify the major symptoms early and seek timely medical help.
Some of the major physical symptoms of neurological disorders include muscle weakness, seizures, partial or complete paralysis, partial or complete loss of sensation and unexplained pain. Others include poor cognitive abilities, decreased alertness and difficulty in reading and writing.
For children with poor muscle coordination and control, there are a number of possible neurological disorder culprits. The most common is cerebral palsy where the symptoms usually present as a dragging or crouching form of walking or sometimes even walking on the toes. Other muscle disorders could present as poor muscle coordination and jerking of limbs in infants, usually indicating the presence of epileptic activity.
Muscle spasms and seizures are also signs of neurological disorders and children with cerebral palsy present with spastic muscle reflexes which cause stiffness of the muscles resulting in abnormal speech and gait. When there are both small muscle spasms as well as full body seizures, it’s considered as epilepsy.
When children present with poor muscle tone that is inappropriate to their age and development, it probably signifies a potential diagnosis for cerebral palsy where the muscles are overtly stiff or floppy.
Aside from muscular disorders, children with neurological problems also present with concentration problems like staring, inattentiveness and inability to stay focused – these occur in autism and ADD/ADHD which head the list of neurological disorders.