Imagine this. A famous mall functions seamlessly throughout the day, every day, and week. It is possible because a command centre works tirelessly to ensure that every aspect of the mall efficiently and effectively works without a hitch. Similarly, in the human body, the nervous system is the body’s command centre.
The nervous system guides almost everything we do, including what we think, say or feel. It also controls complicated processes such as thought, memory and movement The nervous system also plays a vital role in the things our body does without thinking, like blushing, blinking and breathing.
Certain aspects, such as diseases, trauma, toxins, and ageing processes, cause harm to the nervous system.
The blog explains the nervous system, its types, structure, symptoms, functions, and the various conditions that may affect the nervous system.
What is the nervous system?
As mentioned earlier, the nervous system is a control center of the body that assists a person in cognitive ability, speech, and emotion. It also controls major complicated processes such as movements, thoughts, and memory.
The human nervous system includes the brain, the spinal cord as well as the nerves that branch out to other body parts, such as the glands, organs and muscles. The complex systems of nerves gather information from the environment, interpret information, and facilitate response. Thus, it affects every aspect of a person’s life, such as the following:
- Cognitive ability, such as thoughts, memory, learning, and feelings
- Movement control, including balance and coordination
- Senses, such as the way the brain responds to sight, taste, touch, feeling, and sound
- Ageing, sleeping, and healing
- Heartbeat, breathing patterns, and response to stressful situations
- Digestion, hunger, and thirst
- Body processes, including puberty
The nervous system makes use of specialized cells known as neurons to send signals or messages, throughout your body.
- Different types of neurons send different signals. For instance, motor neurons send signals to the muscles to move, while sensory neurons take information from the senses and send signals to the brain. Other kinds of neurons control things the body does automatically, like shivering, regular heartbeat, breathing and digesting food. Each of these neurons is protected and insulated by a layer known as myelin. Thus, helping the nerves transmit messages.
What are the components of the nervous system?
The nervous system has two main parts. Each of these parts comprises billions of nerve cells, also known as neurons. These cells transmit signals to different body parts and signal each one to respond and act in a particular way. The main components of the nervous system are as follows:
- Central nervous system: The spinal cord and brain make up the central nervous system. The brain uses nerves to send signals to the remaining body parts.
- The peripheral nervous system consists of several nerves that branch out from the central nervous system to the rest of the body. This complex system sends information from the brain and spinal cord to various body parts, including organs, arms, legs, fingers, and toes. The somatic nervous system and autonomic nervous systems are sub-categories of the peripheral nervous system. The somatic nervous system helps in voluntary movements, whereas the autonomic nervous system controls a person’s actions, including breathing which happens automatically.
What are the functions of the nervous system?
The nervous system has numerous functions. The billions of neurons function to transmit signals and messages throughout the body. The sense organs, such as eyes, ears, tongues, noses, and other body parts, comprehend information from all around and send them to and from the brain.
Each neuron has different functions. Motor neurons are responsible for muscle movement, whereas sensory neurons transmit information from the sense organs and send it to the brain. Other bodily functions that the body automatically performs, such as breathing, shivering, regular heartbeat, and digesting food, are controlled by the autonom nervous system.
The primary functions of the nervous system:
- Getting and perceiving different sensations, including taste, smell, vision, and sounds
- Combining sensory information from different body parts and processing the same
- Generating responses to sensory information, such as touch, pressure, temperature, pain, and vibration
Once the motor neurons receive messages from the brain and spinal cord, they immediately show appropriate actions, such as contraction and relaxation. In addition, several glands discharge enzymes and hormones due to the message received from the nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls involuntary movements. For example, if a person sees a dog from a distance, the signal generates by sight sends a message to the brain. Once the information is processed, the brain signals the muscles and body to move and signals the body to sweat and increase heartbeat.
What are the diseases that can affect the nervous system?
Numerous conditions and disorders may affect the nervous system . Some of them are due to injury or genetics. In some cases, the nerves get damaged, leading to interruptions in sending and receiving messages. Thus, nerve injury may cause various symptoms, including numbness, pain, and a feeling of pins and needles. Some of the common diseases and disorders are as follows:
- Diseases: Several infections, cancers, and autoimmune diseases, including diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, cause nervous system issues. Diabetes may result in diabetes-related neuropathy, and a health condition called multiple sclerosis attacks the myelin in the central nervous system.
- Stroke: It occurs when blood vessels are blocked or unexpectedly burst. Thus, the brain doesn’t receive enough blood, which may lead to a part of the brain dying. A stroke causes nerve damage that may be mild or severe.
- Trauma: A trauma due to an accident may crush, stretch, or cut the nerves or injure the brain . Car crashes and falls are common injuries that may damage the nervous system .
- Pressure: A pinched or compressed nerve may interrupt the nerve’s function. The reasons for pressure or a pinched nerve may be for several reasons, such as overuse, a tumour, or structural issues, such as sciatica.
- Toxic substances: Certain substances , such as chemotherapy medicines, illegal drugs, excessive alcohol, and poisonous substances, cause nerve damage. Kidney disease patients are at a higher risk of developing nerve damage as their kidney is incapable of efficiently filtering out toxins.
- Ageing process: The nerve signal may slow down as a person ages. Therefore, a person may feel weaker, and reflexes may reduce, and sometimes, lose sensation in their fingers, toes, and other body parts.
What are the common symptoms of nervous system disorders and conditions?
Each person may experience the symptoms differently. The following are the common symptoms of nervous system disorders and conditions:
- Constant and sudden onset of a headache
- A headache that feels different
- A tingling sensation and loss of feeling
- Loss and weakness in the muscle strength
- Vision loss or double vision
- Loss of memory
- Decreased mental ability
- Lack of coordination
- Tremors and seizures
- Backaches that radiate to the feet, toes, or other body parts
- Muscle wasting and slurred speech
- Impairment in expression and comprehension
- Behavorial changes
The above symptoms may also be similar to other medical conditions or issues.
When to seek medical help?
If a person notices sudden changes, including loss of coordination or severe muscle weakness, seek immediate medical attention. Also, a person should immediately contact their healthcare provider or go to the hospital if they experience the following:
- Issues in the vision
- Severe headaches
- Slurred speech
- A sense of numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in the arms or legs
- Frequent tremors or tics
- Changes in behaviour
- Loss of coordination or muscle movement
The nervous system is the command centre for the entire body which needs care in order to keep it working correctly. Avoid drugs, eat a healthy diet, drink alcohol in moderation and consult your doctor regularly. Managing conditions, like diabetes that can injure nerves, is the best way to avoid nerve damage.