Understanding Pediatric Disorders of Nervous System
Posted On: March 21, 2018
Of all the vital systems in the human body, the nervous system that regulates and coordinates the different body activities happens to be a highly intricate system.
The nervous system comprises of two major divisions:
- Central Nervous System - this consists the brain and spinal cord
- Peripheral Nervous System - this comprises of all your neural elements
While brain and spinal cord are the main organs in the nervous system, the other important ones happen to be the eyes, ears, sensory organs that help in taste and smell, the sensory receptors which are located in your skin, muscles, joints and other parts of your body.
What is Disorder of Nervous System?
Children, who have any kind of dysfunction in any brain part, tend to suffer from neurological disorders. A nervous system disorder will lead to various developmental problems. The symptoms of neurological disorders can be both physical and psychological.
In certain cases, even the newborn baby can develop a neurological or brain disorder. Premature babies, born before 37 weeks, are also said to be at higher risk of developing nervous system disorder.
These disorders associated with the nervous system can also occur when the baby inhales very less oxygen at the time of delivery process.
Onset of Neurological Disorders
As per experts, the age of neurological disorders onset tends to differ, depending upon the type of disorder, the onset can occur at any stage of a child’s age. For instance, cerebral palsy is known to develop in the womb, at the time of childbirth or in the early childhood. On the other hand, Autism usually onsets before the age of 3 years. In case of suspected ADHD diagnosis, the symptoms should appear before the age of 7 years. Maximum numbers of TBI cases are noted in the adolescents and young adults.
Symptoms of Neurological Disorders
There exists a range of pediatric neurological disorders including epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autism, muscular dystrophy, ADD, movement disorders as well as cerebrovascular stroke. Every disorder as mentioned affects the child in a specific manner and has its own set of signs and symptoms.
This is why it is important to identify these disorders at the earliest and get the ideal treatment plan designed with the help of a professional.
The symptoms can be both emotional and physical depending upon the neurological disorder type. Let us have a look at the symptoms that are commonly associated with the neurological disorders.
Neurological disorders can have a huge impact on your child’s emotional growth. Along with the physical symptoms, a child suffering from any type of neurological disorder will experience a range of emotional changes like sudden outbursts or mood swings. In older children, one can even notice depression and delusions.
As these symptoms can even be associated with any other disorder, it is very important that a thorough diagnosis is done to find out if the child is suffering from neurological disorders.
Some of the commonly noticed physical symptoms in the case of neurological disorders happen to be:
Poor Muscle Coordination: Poor muscle coordination is associated with a range of pediatric neurological disorders. It is in fact, one of the major symptoms to surface in the case of cerebral palsy, which is again a neurological disorder. The signs related to poor muscle coordination usually become obvious as the child can be seen with dragging walk, wherein he or she appears to be using a crouch or using the walking toes.
Muscle Tone Issues: Another sign of pediatric neurological disorder is the improper muscle tone in children, totally opposite to their age and development stage. Highly stiff and floppy muscle tone is also a possible symptom of cerebral palsy.
Concentration Issues: Trouble related to concentration is associated with various neurological disorders, inclusive of autism and ADD/ADHD. Children who are suffering from a neurological disorder can often be seen having a fixed gaze on single activity or staring with a blank mind.
Spasms: Muscle spasms as well as seizures are also known to be the signs of neurological disorders. Cerebral palsy is characterized by spasticity in the muscle reflexes. Small muscle spasms along with full body seizures are the known symptoms of epilepsy.
Other noticed symptoms
- Blurry vision
- Fever with no known cause
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Reduced movement in arms or legs
Neurological Instability in Kids: Short-Term and Long-Term Effects
In the absence of timely treatment, the neurological disorders can often lead to various short and long-term effects, which can prove to be very grave for the kids. During the growth years, the effects of neurological disorders can even impact the overall mental and physical development of the child. The short and long-term impact of neurological imbalance can differ greatly. This difference is based on the disorder type and the asperity of the child’s condition.
As per a study, around 50% children who happen to suffer from multiple sclerosis, have higher tendency of experiencing depression at least once. The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease grow gradually and it becomes severe with time. That is why it is very important that children diagnosed with neurological disorders are given the right treatment under expert supervision.
Causes of Neurological Disorders
Now that you have understood the symptoms caused by neurological disorders in children, let us now have a look at the reasons which make way for these disorders.
Neurotoxins: They are the damaging substances that can affect the fetal brain development at the time of pregnancy. These toxin substances include lead, mercury, alcohol and some kind of food additives. They get passed down to the growing fetus via the placenta. Owing to this, babies born tend to have intellectual or behavioural issues.
Hypoxia: This condition is known to cause damage to the child’s brain because of lesser oxygen supply. This can happen when the fetus is in the developing stage. Moreover, this disorder can even arise if there had been any complications during the time of delivery. Because of this disorder, the child will reflect intellectual problems and can even suffer from other neurological disorders like epilepsy.
Genetic Disorders: Some of the neurological disorders are passed down to the kids from their parents through genes. Neurological problems that occur because of genes can also happen because of the gene mutation which mostly occurs when the fetus is in the developing stage. The genes can even have an adverse impact on the development of child’s brain as well as the nervous system.
Postnatal Infections: Certain neurological disorders found in kids tend to develop because of the postnatal infections. Some of the most commonly known infections happen to be encephalitis and meningitis – a pathogenic infection. Encephalitis is characterized as brain inflammation while Meningitis happens to be a pathogenic infection. Children who get affected with the postnatal infections tend to display many symptoms. These symptoms include memory problems, behavioural problems, speech impairments and other related problems.
Injury: If the brain or spinal cord of the child encounters an injury, it can lead to various neurological disorders. The asperity of the neurological disorders depends on the injury as well as the affected area of the brain.
Common Neurological Problems in Babies
The most commonly known neurological problems in the newborn babies include:
Intraventricular hemorrhage: This type of disorder is characterized by bleeding within or near the ventricles - the spaces in your brain containing the cerebrospinal fluid. The intraventricular haemorrhage is more common in the premature babies.
Periventricular leukomalacia: It is defined as the damage and softening of the white matter - which is the inner part of the brain and works by sending information between the nerve cells as well as the spinal cord. Quite like intraventricular haemorrhage, the Periventricular leukomalacia is also mostly found in the premature babies.
Neurological disorders can prove to be very grave. These disorders can lead to extreme bleeding or damage to the brain tissues which can eventually destroy the brain cells. It is known to cause lasting illness for the baby.
Common Neurological Disorders in Children
Autism: It is an intricate developmental disability. The signs of autism usually surface in the early childhood. The condition affects a child’s ability to communicate and interact with other people around. Autism spectrum disorder is defined by a particular set of behaviours and happens to be a "spectrum condition" affecting the individuals differently and to different degrees. Certain behaviours linked with autism are delay in learning language; trouble making eye contact, poor motor skills, underdeveloped reasoning and planning skills.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: It is defined as a condition which occurs because of the mother’s exposure to alcohol during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol syndrome can result in brain damage and growth problems. The problems vary from child to child and the damage caused by fetal alcohol syndrome is not reversible. This is the reason it is advised that expecting mothers completely avoid having alcohol. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can subject the baby to higher risk of fetal alcohol syndrome. The symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome include:
- Peculiar facial features, like small eyes, an unusually thin upper lip, upturned nose
- Joints, fingers and limbs deformities
- Slow physical development, both before and after birth
- Vision troubles or hearing problems
- Small head edge and brain size
- Heart defects
- Problems with kidneys and bones
Brain and central nervous system problems
- Poor coordination or balance
- Intellectual disability and delayed growth
- Learning disorders
- Poor memory difficulty with reasoning and lack of problem-solving skills
- Poor judgment skills
- Rapidly changing moods
Dyslexia: It is a learning disability in kids wherein they find it difficult to read accurately and fluently. Some kids with dyslexia can even have problem in spelling, writing and reading comprehension. Dyslexic kids can even find it difficult to answer questions about something they had read. Some of the symptoms of dyslexia include:
- Difficulty in recognizing rhyming words
- Trouble with pronouncing words, especially the beginning sound of a word
- Trouble learning new words
- Problem with recognizing letters
- Matching letters to sounds
ADHD: It is a common disorder that affects a child’s ability to focus, his or her self-control and other vital skills in daily life. ADHD is mostly caused by the differences in brain anatomy as well as wiring. ADHD is often said to run in the families and kids with this condition are characterized by lack of attention, hyperactivity, and lack of discipline. Kids with ADHD also face challenges in different spheres of life including their life at school, home and with friends. ADHD has been classified into three types, namely:
Combined type (inattentive/hyperactive/impulsive): The children who are diagnosed with this type of ADHD tend to display all the three symptoms and it is usually the most common type of ADHD found in kids.
Hyperactive/impulsive type: Kids with this type of ADHD usually stand very hyperactive and impulsive. They are however, able to remain attentive.
Inattentive type: It was earlier known as attention deficit disorder, ADD. Children suffering from this type of ADHD are not very hyperactive or impulsive. They are usually quiet and composed but they are often inattentive, be it in the classroom or at home.
As they are calm, their symptoms are very difficult to notice.
The common symptoms associated with ADHD include:
- Fidgety behaviour or fretting
- Being excessively talkative
- Lacking focus to do a task
- Being inattentive
Epilepsy: Human brain is composed of millions of nerve cells that make use of the electrical signals for controlling the body’s functions, thoughts as well as senses. If due to any reason, the signals get disrupted, the person is likely to suffer from an epileptic seizure. If your child has epilepsy, it will affect various aspects of his or her life, such as social behaviour plus learning capabilities. Some of the studies have stated that nearly 70% of children recover from the condition as they get older. Talking about the causes of epilepsy, some children get it because of some brain injury. In others it could be a result of grave head injury, complexities at birth, or an infection that affects the brain’s functioning, like meningitis. Epilepsy which has an identified structural cause is known as symptomatic epilepsy.
Read More: Epilepsy: Treatment Options and Approaches
Apart from seizures, the other commonly known symptoms of epilepsy include:
- Showing abrupt apathy for a few seconds
- Being watchful right after a seizure
- Not able to recall the seizure episode
- Experiencing one or more seizures in a day
Cerebral Palsy: It is a condition that is defined as a group of problems which affect the child’s body movement as well as posture. Cerebral Palsy is linked to a brain injury or to problems related with brain development. It is known as one of the most common reasons of enduring disability in children. Cerebral palsy leads to reflex movements, that’s difficult to control, and muscle tightness that can affect some or all parts of the body. The cerebral palsy problems can be mild or very severe. Intellectual impairment, seizures, vision and hearing problems are the common effects of cerebral palsy.
The known symptoms of the condition include:
- Limping muscle tone
- Trouble in swallowing
- Muscle spasms
- Poor reflexes
- Disability to walk
- Not being able to make sentences by the age of two
Central Nervous System Tumours: This tumour type occurs when the healthy cells in the brain or spinal cord happen to change and grow uncontrollably, thus forming a mass. A tumour so formed can either be cancerous or benign. Cancerous tumors are malignant, which means they can grow and advance to other body parts. On the other hand, benign tumour grows but it doesn’t spread like the cancerous tumour. CNA tumour can affect your child’s thought process and movements. Moreover, treating this tumour type is also challenging given the tumour area, because the tissues around are very crucial for the body’s functioning.
The symptoms of central nervous system tumour include:
- A seizure or convulsion, sudden spontaneous movements of body muscles
- Unexplained, enduring nausea as well as projectile vomiting
- Blank stares or monotonous automatic movements
- Weakness or clumsiness
- Early or delayed puberty
- Delayed or abnormal growth
- Sleep apnea
- Vision problems
- Irritability, lethargy, or personality changes
Migraine: It is not limited to mere headaches, in kids, migraine happens to be a complex neurological disease. The condition causes symptoms like head pain vomiting, nausea, dizziness, and sensitivity to sound, light, touch, and odors. In some cases, migraine can even lead to abdominal pain as well as mood changes. As compared to adults suffering from migraine, kids tend to have fewer and shorter migraine attacks. But it doesn’t change the fact that migraine in kids is equally disabling as it is in adults. Migraine can have a huge impact on your child’s quality of life. As per reports, kids as young as 18 months old can suffer from migraine. Nearly 10% of school-age children happen to suffer from migraine.
Rare Neurological Disorders in Children
Apart from the major conditions related to the neurological disorders, there are several other conditions that can affect your children. These rare conditions include:
Schindler Disease: It is a rare genetic metabolic disorder wherein there is a deficiency in the activity of the lysosomal enzyme alpha-N-acetylgalactosaminidase. This enzyme defect causes abnormal amassing of some complex compounds namely: glycoproteins, glycosphingolipids and oligosaccharides, which contain the terminal or preterminal N-acetylgalactosaminyl debris in various tissues of the body as well as in the urine. There are two types of Schindler disease known to be existing.
One is a grave form that onsets at the time of infancy (type I) and the other is a milder form which onsets in the adulthood (type II). A type III has also been proposed which is known to be lesser severe than Type 1 but more severe than the type II. Talking of the signs and symptoms of this condition, they can vary from person to person. Children, who are diagnosed with this condition, usually fail in surviving beyond the age of 3 to 4 years. Among the commonly known symptoms, one experiences mental retardation, seizures and blindness in grave cases.
Syringomyelia: It is defined as the development of a fluid-filled cyst in the spinal cord. Gradually the cysts enlarge and damage the spinal cord which leads to symptoms like pain, weakness and inflexibility. This condition is caused by various reasons but the majority of cases are linked with a condition wherein the brain tissue bulges into the spinal cord. Other causes are spinal cord tumors, injuries and damage due to inflammation around the spinal cord. If the child is facing no problem because of syringomyelia, the treatment will include monitoring the symptoms. Surgery is recommended in the cases where symptoms affect the quality of life.
Carnosinemia: A uncommon genetic metabolic disorder, in this condition the neurological functions get impaired and the development is delayed. Symptoms of this disorder often begin during infancy and include drowsiness, seizures accompanied by forced jerking muscle movements, and mental retardation.
Meige’s Syndrome: In this condition one experiences unwanted and forceful jaw and tongue muscle contractions and involuntary muscle spasms plus contractions of the muscles near the eyes. The symptoms and their intensity tend to vary from child to child. Among the common symptoms, there happen to be repetitive blinking, muscle contractions and tongue protrusion.
Children suffering from any sort of dysfunction in brain experience different neurological disorders. These dysfunctions can lead to various developmental problems and affect their overall growth. Delayed diagnosis and treatment can only complicate the condition and in some cases can even prove to be fatal.
Neurological disorders must be treated immediately and under the expert supervision so that the quality of life is not compromised with.
At Shalby Hospitals, Ahmedabad, our state-of-the-art neuroscience department takes complete care of the various pediatric disorders as related to the brain and nerves. We also offer cutting-edge treatment for pediatric neurological disorders, which are targeted at minimizing the discomfort and improving the quality of life.
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