Neurodegenerative diseases

Neurodegenerative diseases refer to diseases caused by a process that speeds up cell death, causing the degeneration of the nervous tissue. 

The most common neurodegenerative disease is Alzheimer’s, which in turn is the most common form of dementia.

Other kinds of commonly occurring degenerative processes are Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), among others.

What causes neurodegenerative diseases?

Today, the causes of neuronal loss from neurodegenerative diseases are unknown. 

Although genetic and environmental factors that may be related to some of these diseases have been identified, the main risk factor for these diseases is old age, which means that the prevalence of these diseases is likely to rise in the near future.

What are the symptoms?

The appearance of symptoms of these diseases depends on the affected region of the CNS. In Alzheimer’s disease, degeneration occurs in the cerebral cortex, which means that the main associated problems are behavioural or cognitive.

In other degenerative diseases, the initial condition is related to a condition of the brain structures associated with specific activities. These structures include dopaminergic cells of substantia nigra, whose job is to ensure that the cortical and subcortical motor circuits function correctly. Hence, the main dysfunction of Parkinson’s disease is motor related.

How are these diseases treated?

Currently, there are no curative treatments for these processes, which means that today’s treatments are basically symptomatic, designed to relieve symptoms and increase the activity of the surviving neurons. The aim of these treatments is to minimize the clinical effects of the degenerative process.

Although degenerative diseases are technically not cases of acquired brain injury (ACI), both pathologies are characterized by a broad range of symptoms and their chronic nature. Hence, the treatment used for many symptoms is similar to the treatment of ACI (integral, all-round, multidisciplinary, sustained, etc.). Likewise, the techniques and treatments are similar to the techniques and treatments commonly applied in the rehabilitation of patients who have suffered ACI.

With this type of disease, it is crucial to focus on the patient’s level of activity to ensure that the patient maintains his or her activity at an optimal level. The aim is to prevent future complications and compensate for existing deficits by using new strategies and training the skills that the patient has been able to maintain. Such treatments are designed to ensure that this type of patient maintains the highest level of personal autonomy for as long as possible.