Causes and Symptoms (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The cerebral cortex acts as a processor for sensory information and as an integrator of memory, interpretation, creativity, intellect, and passion. Disorders of the brain or brain defects can disrupt these processing or integrating functions. Disorders of the brain include such commonly heard terms as stroke, ischemia, dementia, seizure, and coma. Brain disorders may also occur as a result of infection, various tumors, traumas leading to blood clots (hematomas) or lack of oxygen (hypoxia), and cancer. Brain defects include anencephaly, a congenital defect in which a newborn lacks a brain, and hydrocephaly, commonly called “water on the brain.”
A stroke is any situation in which the blood supply to a region of the brain is lost. This can occur as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage, during which blood escapes from blood vessels to surround and compress brain tissue; cerebral thrombosis, whereby a clot attached to the wall of a blood vessel restricts the amount of blood flowing to a particular region; or an embolus, a foreign substance which may be a clot that migrates in the bloodstream, often to lodge in a smaller vessel in the brain. The embolus will block blood flow to some area. An embolus can originate from substances other than a blood clot, which is why health care staff often squirt fluid out of a needle before administering a shot or other therapy: to ensure that no air embolus, which could induce a stroke or...
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Treatment and Therapy (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
TIAs can progress to strokes. In fact, about 30 percent of those diagnosed with TIA will have a major stroke within the subsequent four years. One of the most prevalent causes of TIAs is hypertension. Hypertension is known as the “silent killer” because many persons with this problem ignore the subtle symptoms of fatigue, headache, and general malaise. Hypertension is also known as a good predictor of major strokes if left untreated. Thus, hypertensive persons need to be diagnosed as such in order to control their blood pressure. This allows them to avoid or delay either a major stroke or multiple TIAs. Management for the hypertensive’s blood pressure may include taking diuretics and hypotensive drugs (to lower the blood pressure). If taken diligently, these drugs offer longevity and quality of life to the sufferer. Aside from hypertension, TIAs may be induced in some metabolic disorders, which should be corrected if possible, or by constricted blood vessels. Sometimes, surgery on such vessels can stop the ischemic attacks and prevent or delay the onset of a stroke.
Although TIAs lead to strokes, strokes are not necessarily preceded by a TIA. Nearly 90 percent of all major strokes occur without a TIA warning. Sadly, hypertension is the main contributor to this number. Measures can be taken to avoid strokes. This includes maintaining cardiovascular health by exercising, not smoking, and managing hypertension,...
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Perspective and Prospects (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The therapies in use for brain diseases and disorders have been derived from the practical experience of physicians, the laboratory research of scientists, and the hopes of multitudes of doctors, patients, families, and friends. Medical science has done much to improve the lives of those who suffer with seizures, to reduce the risk of strokes to the hypertensive person and those with TIAs, and is making great progress in treating certain kinds of dementia. Yet much remains to be done.
While one can argue that much is known about the human brain, it would be erroneous to argue that the human brain is fully understood. Despite centuries of research, the brain, as it functions in health, remains largely a mystery. Since the healthy brain is yet to be understood, it is not surprising that the medical community struggles to determine what goes wrong in dementia, seizure, or mental illness or to discover drug therapies that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Thus, the human brain is the uncharted frontier in medicine. As technology improves to support researchers and medical practitioners in their pursuits of cures and treatments for brain diseases and disorders, one can only remain hopeful for the future ability to restore health to the damaged human brain.
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For Further Information: (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
American Medical Association. American Medical Association Family Medical Guide. 4th rev. ed. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2004. An excellent reference for the beginner. The scientific accuracy of the text is not compromised by its accessibility.
Bannister, Roger. Brain and Bannister’s Clinical Neurology. 7th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Several chapters are dedicated to the topics of seizures, dementia, hydrocephalus, and loss of consciousness. Because the writing can be fairly technical, it is best used by someone with a background in human anatomy and physiology.
Bloom, Floyd E., M. Flint Beal, and David J. Kupfer, eds. The Dana Guide to Brain Health. New York: Dana Press, 2006. An easy-to-understand health guide to the brain from neuroscience, neurology, and psychiatry perspectives. More than seventy psychiatric and neurological disorders, their diagnoses, and their treatments are covered.
Castle, Lana R., and Peter C. Chybrow. Bipolar Disorder Demystified: Mastering the Tightrope of Manic Depression. New York: Avalon, 2003. A layperson’s guide to the disorder, written by a bipolar disorder patient. Provides an understanding of the true nature of bipolar disorder, the factors that complicate its diagnosis, and numerous strategies for successfully coping with the illness.
Dana.org. http://www.dana.org. A nonprofit organization of...
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Brain Disorders (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
Any of the various disorders associated with the human brain, including stroke, trauma, and tumors.
It has recently been reported that neurology, the study of the brain, is the fastest growing specialty in the life sciences. With this growth has come a wealth of new information about the origins of and treatments for some of the more prevalent brain disorders. There are many varieties of brain disorders that affect humans, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, and other disorders that are more generally thought of as being "behavioral" rather than biological. These types of disorders that could be termed disorders of the brain in a broad sense include depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Beyond these, however, are several other types of disorders of the brain, including stroke, trauma, brain tumors, and developmental disorders such as muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy.
Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States and are one of the leading causes of disability among older adults. According to the most recent statistics, a staggering 1,200 people suffer from strokes each day in this country. "Stroke" is technically a lay term; when physicians speak of strokes, they are referring to thromboses, hemorrhages, or embolisms....
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