ALS-related Q & A

September 21, 2014

ALS-related Q & A from American Brain Foundation eNews “Ask a Neurologist”*

Q. What are the common signs/symptoms of ALS?

A. ALS predominantly affects the motor nerve cells of brain and spinal cord which control muscle strength. The initial symptoms of ALS can vary from person to person and sometimes may be so mild that they may be overlooked. The symptoms of ALS can also mimic other diseases, especially early on, which may cause a delay in its diagnosis. Overall muscle weakness occurs in approximately 60% of patients, and is a hallmark of ALS. The weakness starts in one part of the body, such as the arms or legs, and then spreads to other parts. Patients complain of difficulty holding onto a spoon or fork, difficulty buttoning shirts or putting on mascara, dropping things, or easily tripping over carpets and sustaining falls. Sometimes the symptoms may start out by affecting speech such that friends and family begin to notice that words are un

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Epilepsy-related Q & A

September 18, 2014

Epilepsy-related Q & A from American Brain Foundation eNews “Ask a Neurologist”*

Q. What are the primary causes of epileptic seizures?

A. Epileptic seizures are caused by an abnormal electrical discharge from neurons in the brain. Repeated seizures can be caused by a variety of reasons, depending on the person’s age. Seizures can be caused by any injury or condition that can impact neurons. Cerebral vascular diseases such as stroke, head trauma, brain tumors, infection, genetic conditions, metabolic toxins such as alcoholism or medications, hemorrhage, and Alzheimer’s disease can all cause seizures. In essence, anything that affects the brain cells or neurons directly can cause an epileptic seizure.

Q. How does stress affect the brain and can stress provoke seizures?

A. Stress is not a direct cause of seizures, but it can be an indirect contributor to the cause of seizures. Think about when the weather

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Migraine-related Q & A

October 15, 2014

Migraine-related Q & A from American Brain Foundation eNews “Ask a Neurologist”*

Q. Is there research proving the benefits of non-traditional approaches to migraines – such as acupuncture, reiki, massage, etc., instead of prescription drugs?

A: Many alternative therapies and treatments have been studied in migraine. Some supplements which are probably effective include magnesium, butterbur, riboflavin, and feverfew. Other treatments which have shown promise include biofeedback and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Relaxation therapy and aerobic exercise have been demonstrated to reduce the frequency of migraine headaches. A combination of medications, alternative therapies, and lifestyle management techniques are often successful in reducing the frequency and severity of migraine headaches.

Q. What are cluster headaches and what causes them? How can I avoid or get rid of them?

A: Cranial nerve V, called the trig

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Stroke-related Q & A

Stroke-related Q & A from American Brain Foundation eNews “Ask a Neurologist”*

Q. What role does genetics play in determining the risk of having a stroke?

A: The exact role of genetics in stroke is still being worked out. We know that if your parents had heart disease and stroke, you are at a higher risk. This is partly related to the fact that many of the risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol tend to run in families. If a person has a family history of stroke, it is very important to evaluate the risk factors and control blood pressure and cholesterol, and stop smoking.

Q. Can children, teens, and young adults suffer a stroke?

A: Yes, stroke can occur at any age. The causes vary depending on age, but we are seeing younger people who are suffering strokes related to high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol more than we used to. There can also be abnormalities in th

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