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The nervous system is a complex, highly specialized network. It organizes, explains, and directs interactions between you and the world around you. The nervous system controls:
The symptoms of a nervous system problem depend on which area of the nervous system is involved and what is causing the problem. Nervous system problems may occur slowly and cause a gradual loss of function (degenerative). Or they may occur suddenly and cause life-threatening problems (acute). Symptoms may be mild or severe. Some serious conditions, diseases, and injuries that can cause nervous system problems include:
A sudden (acute) nervous system problem can cause many different symptoms, depending on the area of the nervous system involved. Stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) are common examples of acute problems. You may experience the sudden onset of one or more symptoms, such as:
Seizures can also cause sudden changes in consciousness, feeling (sensation), emotion, or thought. Abnormal body movements, such as muscle twitching, may or may not be present. How often the seizures occur and how severe they are depend on the cause of the seizures and the area of the brain involved. For more information, see the topic Seizures.
Diabetes can cause problems with balance, either as a result of peripheral neuropathy or stroke.
Vertigo and dizziness are problems of balance and coordination (equilibrium). Vertigo is often caused by a medicine or a problem of the inner ear or brain. Emotional distress, dehydration, blood pressure problems, and other diseases can all cause feelings of dizziness. For more information, see the topic Dizziness: Lightheadedness and Vertigo.
Most headaches are not caused by serious central nervous system problems. The pain that comes with a headache can range from a throbbing or a piercing pain, such as with a migraine, to severe pain that comes and goes over several days, such as with cluster headaches. Headaches are usually caused by problems with the sinuses, scalp, or muscles of or around the head. For more information, see the topic Headaches.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Symptoms of a stroke may include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Problems with the nervous system can cause a variety of symptoms almost anywhere in the body. A few examples of symptoms that may be caused by a nervous system problem include:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause symptoms related to the nervous system. A few examples are:
Specific home treatment for symptoms related to a nervous system problem depends on the cause of the problem. Check your symptoms to determine if and when you need to see your doctor. Keep a diary of your symptoms to review with your doctor at your next appointment. See an example of a diary of symptoms (What is a PDF document?).
Call your doctor if your symptoms become more frequent or severe during home treatment.
Follow the prevention guidelines below to keep your body and nervous system healthy:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Current as ofJune 4, 2014
Current as of: June 4, 2014
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