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.
transient ischemic attack (TIA) are common examples of
acute problems. You may experience the sudden onset of one or more symptoms,
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
Diabetes can cause problems
with balance, either as a result of peripheral neuropathy or stroke.
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
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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?).
For more information on ways to make your home safe when you have nervous system problems, see the topic Preventing Falls.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if your symptoms become more frequent or
severe during home treatment.
Follow the prevention guidelines
Eat a balanced diet. A balanced, low-fat diet
with ample sources of vitamins B6, B12, and folate will help protect the
nervous system. Make sure that your diet contains lots of fresh fruits,
vegetables, and whole grains.
Drink plenty of water and other
fluids. This helps prevent
dehydration, which can cause confusion and memory
To prevent dehydration during hot weather and
exercise, drink 8 to 10 glasses of water, rehydration drinks, or other fluids
Drink extra water before, during, and after
exercise. Take a container of water or sports drink
with you when you exercise, and try to drink at least every 15 to 20
Use a sports drink, such as Gatorade or Powerade, if you
will be exercising for longer than 1 hour.
Limit your intake of
caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and colas, which increase dehydration and
can affect sleep.
Exercise regularly. Talk to your doctor about an
exercise plan that will be right for you.
Do not smoke or use other
tobacco products. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
Get plenty of rest.
Do not use
alcohol or illegal drugs, which can affect functioning long after
Take care of health conditions that may cause decreased
nervous system functioning, such as:
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.