Call our Helpline: 0808 808 1000

A to Z of neurological topics

In this section we feature information on a number of tests, treatments and conditions, with links for more information either within this website or on external sites where possible. If you can't find what you're looking for, you may wish to speak with one of our Helpline team who may be able to answer your questions. Send an email to helpline@brainandspine.org.uk or call free on 0808 808 1000.

  • A

    Acoustic neuroma

    (also known as a vestiblar schwannoma)

     

    A type of tumour that occurs in the brain and develops from the lining of the nerve that connects the ear to the brain (vestibulocochlear nerve.)

     

    Useful links:

    British Acoustic Neuroma Association


    Acquired

     

    If something is acquired it means that it developed sometime after birth.


    Acquired brain injury (ABI)

     

    See brain injury for more information.


    Acute

     

    A symptom or condition is acute when it has developed fairly rapidly or has not been present for a long time.


    ADEM (Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis)

     

    An inflammatory demyelinating condition that affects the brain and spinal cord. It is an autoimmune condition that often follows on from a minor infection.


    Adrenomyeloneuropathy (AMN)

     

    A genetic, degenerative condition that can affect the spinal cord and the brain and which damages the fatty tissue in the lining that surrounds and insulates the nerves.


    Alzheimer’s Disease

     

    A progressive, degenerative condition that can affect multiple functions of the brain, including memory, and is the most common form of dementia.

     

    Useful links:

    Alzheimer’s Society


    Aneurysm

     

    A blood-filled swelling or bulge in a blood vessel. Aneurysms can develop in places where the walls of a blood vessel are typically weaker, such as where they branch, or they can develop as the result of damage or weakening of the walls of a blood vessel following injury or disease.

     

    You may also be interested in reading about Subarachnoid haemorrhage.


    Angiogram

     

    An investigation that uses X-rays to examine blood vessels and the flow of blood though them. Blood vessels do not usually show up on an X-ray and so a special dye is injected in to the blood in order to make the blood vessels visible.

     

     

    See our Angiogram of the brain fact sheet


    Ankylosing spondylitis

     

    A chronic, inflammatory condition that primarily affects the joints in the spine, but can affect other joints in the body, and which causes back pain, fatigue, and stiffness in the back.


    Anosmia

     

    Anosmia is the absence or loss of the sense of smell.

     

    Useful links:

    Fifth Sense


    Anterior

     

    This refers to the front of the body or one of its parts. It is the opposite of posterior.


    Aphasia

     

    Aphasia is an impairment of language that occurs due to injury or damage to the brain. A person with aphasia may have difficulty finding words, problems understanding what is said to them, or they may lose the ability to speak, read, or write altogether.

     

    Useful links:

    Stroke Association

    Dyscover

    Talking Point 
    Information about speech, language and communication in children.


    Arachnoid

    (also called the arachnoid mater)

     

    A thin membrane that covers and surrounds the brain and spinal cord. It is the middle layer of the group of three layers that are referred to as the meninges. The other two layers are the pia mater and the dura mater.


    Arachnoid Cyst

     

    Arachnoid cysts are fluid filled sacs that can form between the brain or spinal cord and the arachnoid layer which covers them, or within the arachnoid layer itself.

     

    Useful links:

    Arachnoid Cyst Friends 
    Yahoo group supporting people affected by Arachnoid Cyst (you need to join the group in order to read or post messages)


    Arachnoid web

     

    Arachnoid webs are abnormal ‘bands’ of the arachnoid membrane that can cause symptoms by affecting the flow of fluid around the spinal cord, and by distorting the normal anatomy of the spinal cord.


    Arachnoiditis

     

    A condition that involves inflammation of the arachnoid membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The cause of inflammation can be an infection, a consequence of surgery or trauma, or due to some other source of irritation to the arachnoid membrane. Scarring and adhesions can develop due to the inflammation and these can cause longer term symptoms and problems.


    Arnold-Chiari malformation

     

    Arnold-Chiari malformation is a an older term that was generally used to refer to what is now called a type 2 Chiari malformation. 

     

    For more information see Chiari malformation


    Artery

     

    A blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood away from the heart and to the body.


    Astrocytic glioma

    (also known as an astrocytoma)

     

    A type of tumour that occurs in the brain and spinal cord, and develops from a particular kind of supporting cell in the central nervous system known as astrocytes

     

    See our Brain tumour booklet


    Ataxia

     

    Ataxia is the loss of the ability to coordinate muscles during voluntary movement, and is also an umbrella term for a group of disorders that can affect balance, coordination and speech.

     

    Useful links:

    Ataxia UK


    Autonomic nervous system

     

    The autonomic nervous system is the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary actions such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and digestion.


    AVM (Arteriovenous malformation)

     

    An arteriovenous malformation is a tangle of abnormal and poorly formed blood vessels that form a connection between an artery and a vein. This connection can interfere with normal blood circulation and if a bleed develops from this malformation, it can cause severe problems depending on where it is located.

     

    See our Vascular malformations of the brain booklet


  • B

    Back pain

     

    Useful links:

    BackCare

    Arthritis Research UK

    Spine Universe

    See also our Back Pain news articles


    Bell's palsy

     

    Bell’s palsy is a condition that causes paralysis of the muscles on one side of a person’s face and is the result of damage to the facial nerve on the same side as the symptoms.


    Bereavement

     

    Useful links:

    Cruse Bereavement Care


    BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo)

     

    An inner ear disorder that causes episodes of dizziness and vertigo. BPPV is generally thought to be due to the displacement of small ‘stones’ that are part of the way that the body senses what position it is in, i.e. whether you are upright, upside down, lying flat etc…

     

    See our Dizziness and balance problems booklet


    Brain and spine scans

     

    See our Brain and spine scans fact sheet


    Brain haemorrhage

     

    See subarachnoid haemorrhage for more information.


    Brain injury

     

    Brain injury can occur when a sudden trauma or a condition causes damage to the brain. Depending on what part of the brain is affected, brain injuries can cause a wide range of signs and symptoms.

     

    An acquired brain injury (ABI) is brain damage that has been caused by an event that has occurred after birth. Acquired brain injuries can be further classed as either traumatic brain injuries (TBI), such as those resulting from a fall or road accident, or non-traumatic brain injuries, which includes damage caused by conditions such as stroke and meningitis.

     

    See our Head injury booklet


    Brain surgery

     

    See our Craniotomy fact sheet


    Brain tumour

     

    See our Brain tumour booklet


    Brainstem

    (also written brain stem)

     

    The brainstem is the part of the brain that connects with the spinal cord. It relays information between the brain and the body, and is also involved in vital functions such as breathing.


    Brown-Sequard syndrome

     

    Brown-Sequard syndrome is a disorder caused by injury or damage to only one side of the spinal cord. Due to the fact only half of the spinal cord is affected, it causes a loss of sensation on the same side of the injury, but weakness on the other side of the body.


  • C

    Capillary telangiectasia

     

    Small areas, or clusters, of abnormally dilated capillaries (small blood vessels) that are seen within otherwise normal brain tissue

     

    See our Vascular malformations of the brain booklet


    Catheter

     

    A flexible tube use in medical procedures.


    Cauda equina syndrome

     

    Cauda equina syndrome is a condition in which the bundle of nerves that sits below the spinal cord in the spinal column, often referred to as the cauda equina, is compressed. It can cause pain in the lower back or legs, numbness or weakness in the legs and groin, and can affect bowel or bladder control, as well as sexual function.


    Causalgia

     

    Causalgia is an older term for what is now more often described as type 2 complex regional pain syndrome.

     

    See complex regional pain syndrome for more information.


    Cavernoma

     

    A cavernoma is a cluster of abnormal blood vessels, usually found in the brain and spine. Unlike arteriovenous malformations, cavernomas do not have well defined arteries or veins connecting to them.

     

    See our Vascular malformations of the brain booklet


    Cerebellar tonsils

     

    The cerebellar tonsils are the lowest part of the cerebellum.


    Cerebellum

     

    The cerebellum is the lowermost part of the brain, and plays a role in controlling balance and co-ordinating movement.


    Cerebral palsy

     

    A group of neurological conditions that affect muscle control, movement and co-ordination. These conditions are often caused by damage to the brain that occurs before, during or soon after birth.

     

    Useful links:

    Scope


    Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)

     

    A clear, colourless fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Its main functions are to protect the brain and to carry nutrients to the brain and remove waste.


    Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak

     

    A cerebrospinal fluid leak occurs when there is a tear or hole in the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, and the fluid that surrounds these structures escapes. As a result of this leak, the overall pressure within the skull can drop (which is referred to as intracranial hypotension) and this can cause headaches as well as other neurological symptoms.

     

    See our Headache booklet

     

    Useful links:

    CSF Leak Association


    Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease

     

    A group of inherited conditions that affect the nerves that lie outside of the brain and spinal cord (peripheral nerves) and can cause problems with muscle control and sensation.

     

    Useful links:

    CMT United Kingdom


    Chiari malformation

     

    A medical term describing when the cerebellum, and sometimes the brainstem, extends below the foramen magnum and into the spinal canal. This can put pressure on the brain stem and spinal cord, and also disrupt the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, which can cause a wide range of symptoms including headache, dizziness, and neck pain.

     

    See our Chiari malformations fact sheet


    Chordoma

     

    A type of tumour that can occurs in the bones in the spine and at the base of the skull.

     

    See our Spinal tumours booklet


    Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

    (also known as myalgice encephalomyelitis or ME)

     

    A condition that can cause a wide range of symptoms, of which the most common is extreme tiredness or fatigue. It is not known what causes CFS/ME, but it is thought that in some cases it occurs following an infection or illness such as glandular fever or pneumonia.

     

    Useful links:

    ME Association

    M.E Support


    Clinical Nurse Specialist

     

    A Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is a registered nurse who is an expert within a specialty area.


    Clipping

     

    A way of treating aneurysms by putting a small clamp around their base. This kind of procedure requires a craniotomy or open surgery.

     

    See our Subarachnoid haemorrhage booklet


    Cluster headache

     

    A recurrent type of headache that typically occurs in a cyclical pattern or in clusters, and that causes a severe pain in or around one eye on one side of the head. Other symptoms that occur with a cluster headache can include a red and watery eye, drooping and swelling of one eyelid, or a blocked or runny nostril.

     

    See our Headache booklet

     

    Useful links:

    OUCH (UK)


    CNS nurse

     

    See Clinical Nurse Specialist


    Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

     

    A form of talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.


    Coiling

     

    A way of treating aneurysms without the need for a craniotomy or open surgery, that is performed by going through the blood vessels and inserting a coil of metal in to the aneurysm.

     

    See our Coiling of brain aneurysms fact sheet


    Colloid cyst

     

    A type of tumour/fluid filled sac that is found in the brain, but that is often found incidentally as they can be asymptomatic.


    Complementary therapies

     

    Non-mainstream types of medicine and treatment that are used alongside conventional medical treatments.

     

    Useful links:

    Hypnotherapy directory

    Therapy directory


    Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)

     

    Complex regional pain syndrome is a condition in which someone experiences severe ongoing pain in a limb or specific part of the body, which most often occurs following an injury.

     

    Useful links:

    CRPS UK


    Concussion

     

    A temporary injury to the brain that can be a consequence of a minor head injury. A concussion can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and can also cause someone to be confused or have memory problems for a short period of time.


    Congenital

     

    This term refers to something, such as a condition, that has been present since birth. However, it may not become apparent until later in life and may be found incidentally.


    Continence

     

    As a medical term, continence generally refers to the ability of a person to control, or ‘hold back,’ functions of the bladder and the bowels.

     

    Useful links:

    Bladder and Bowel Foundation


    Counselling and psychotherapy

     

    Useful links:

    It’s good to talk

    UK & Ireland Directory of Counselling and Psychotherapy

    Counselling Directory


    Counsellor

     

    A person trained to give guidance on personal or psychological problems.


    Craniotomy

     

    An operation in which an opening is made in the skull.

     

    See our Craniotomy fact sheet


    Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)

     

    A degenerative brain disease that is most commonly caused by an infectious protein called a prion.

     

    Useful links:

    CJD Support Network

    National CJD Surveillance Unit


    CSF leak

     

    See Cerebrospinal (CSF) fluid leak


    CT scan

     

    A CT scan is a Computerised Tomography scan. It is a special type of X-ray that uses a scanner and computer equipment to take cross-sectional pictures of the brain or spine.

     

    See our Brain and Spine scans fact sheet


    CTA scan

     

    A CTA scan is a Computerised Tomography Angiography (CTA) scan. It is a special type of X-ray that involves injecting a special dye in to the bloodstream, and uses a scanner and computer equipment to take cross-sectional pictures of specific blood vessels


  • D

    Decompression surgery

     

    A type of surgery that is directed at reducing or relieving pressure, often achieved by removing a piece of bone. It is sometimes used to treat Chiari malformations by removing a small section of bone at the base of the skull. Decompression surgery is also used to treat nerves that are compressed in and around the spine, and this involves removing a segment of bone from a vertebra.


    Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

     

    A blood clot, also known as a thrombosis, which develops within a deep vein in the body. This blood clot can travel from where it formed and sometimes block smaller blood vessels, for instance in the brain (causing a stroke) or lungs (causing a pulmonary embolism).


    Delayed cerebral ischaemia

     

    Delayed cerebral ischaemia occurs when there is a dangerously low supply of blood to the brain, causing brain damage. It can be due to spasm of the blood vessels (vasospasm) in the head, and can follow a few days after a subarachnoid haermorrhage.


    Dementia

     

    An umbrella term for a range of progressive neurological disorders that affect the brain and can cause problems with brain functions such as memory, language, and problem-solving.

     

    Useful links:

    Dementia Research Centre

    Dementia services in London

    Dementia UK


    Devic's disease

     

    See Neuromyelitis optica for more information


    Diplopia

     

    A medical term for double vision, which is when you look at one object but see two images of it.


    Dizziness and balance problems

     

    See our Dizziness and balance problems booklet


    Dura

    (also called the dura mater)

     

    A thin covering that surrounds your brain and spine. The dura mater is one of three layers known together as the meninges. It is tough compared to the other two layers, the pia mater and the arachnoid mater, and is the outermost layer, lying closest to the skull.


    Dyskinesia

     

    Dyskinesia is an abnormal, uncontrolled movement that a person does not intend to perform. These movements can be repetitive motions or more like spasms.


    Dysphagia

     

    A medical term for problems with swallowing.


    Dystonia

     

    A medical term for a range of movement disorders that cause uncontrollable muscle spasms and contractions. These contractions can result in slow, repetitive movements or unusual postures that can be painful.

     

    Useful links:

    The Dystonia Society


  • E

    Ehlers-Danlos syndromes

     

    Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) are a group of connective tissue disorders that can cause a wide range of symptoms and health problems such as fragile skin, eye problems, and very mobile joints.


    Embolisation

     

    A way of blocking blood vessels, that involves injecting a liquid glue, or sometimes inserting small metal coils, to create an artificial blood clot that blocks the flow of blood.


    Encephalitis

     

    Inflammation of the brain that is usually caused by an infection or an auto-immune response, in which the body’s own immune system attacks the brain.

     

    See our Encephalitis fact sheet


    Ependymomas

     

    A type of tumour that occurs in the brain and spinal cord and develops from the cells of a lining called the ependyma, which lines the inside of fluid-filled spaces within the brain and spine.

     

    See our Spinal tumours booklet


    Epilepsy

     

    A condition or a group of conditions, which affect the brain and can cause frequent seizures and sometimes a loss of consciousness.

     

    See our Epilepsy fact sheet


    Eye problems

     

    Useful links:

    Moorfields Eye Hospital

    Royal National Institute for the Blind


  • F

    Face pain

     

    See our Face pain booklet


    Fatigue

     

    An overwhelming sense of tiredness or complete exhaustion that does not go away with sleep or rest.

     

    See our Fatigue article


    Fibromyalgia

     

    A condition that causes widespread pain all over the body, and can also cause fatigue, headaches, muscle stiffness, and difficulties with sleeping and concentrating.


    Foramen magnum

     

    The opening at the base of the skull.


    Functional neurological disorder (FND)

    (and non-epileptic attack disorder)

     

    A condition in which people experience neurological symptoms but upon examination and investigation there is no clear physical explanation for them, i.e. damage to the brain or a nerve.

     

    Useful links:

    FNDaction

    FND Hope UK


  • G

    Gamma knife

     

    A type of radiosurgery that uses focussed beams of gamma radiation to treat lesions, such as tumours, within the brain.

     

    See our map of neurological centres in the UK


    Genetics

     

    Useful links:

    Contact A Family


    Glioma

     

    A group of tumours that occur in the brain and spinal cord, and develop from supporting cells in the central nervous system known as glial cells. Types of glioma include astrocytmoa, ependymoma, and oligodendroglioma.

     

    See our Brain tumour booklet

    See our Spinal tumours booklet

     

    Useful links:

    Astro Fund


    Glossopharyngeal neuralgia

     

    A chronic pain disorder that affects one of the nerves in the head and neck known as the glossopharyngeal nerve, and causes episodes of sudden, severe pain in the back of the throat, tongue and ear.

     

    See our Face pain booklet


    Guillain-Barre syndrome

     

    An auto-immune condition that affects nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord and can cause problems with sensation and muscle weakness in the legs and arms. It is often triggered by an infection.

     

    Useful links:

    Guillain Barre Support Group


  • H

    Haemangioma

     

    A type of tumour that can affect the head and neck and develops from the cells that line blood vessels.


    Haematoma

     

    A collection of clotted blood that has formed outside of a blood vessel and which can put pressure on nearby structures. Haematomas can cause a wide range of symptoms depending on where they are located in the body.


    Haemorrhage

     

    A large flow of blood that has escaped from a damaged blood vessel.

     

    See our Subarachnoid haemorrhage booklet


    Head injury

     

    See our Head injury booklet

     

    Useful links:

    The Silverlining Charity


    Headache

     

    See our Headache booklet

     

    Useful links:

    OUCH (UK)

    The Migraine Trust

    Migraine Action

    Headache Expert


    Healthy lifestyle

     

    See our section on Health and lifestyle tips


    Hearing problems

     

    Useful links:

    Action on Hearing Loss


    Hemiplegia

     

    A term that describes when a condition causes weakness or paralysis on only one side of the body.

     

    Useful links:

    HemiHelp


    Hereditary spastic paraplegia

    (also known as spastic paraeparesis)

     

    A group of inherited disorders that all primarily cause worsening weakness and stiffness in the leg muscles.


    Herniated disc

     

    The term herniated disc, also sometimes referred to as a slipped disc, describes when one of the discs of cartilage which sit between the vertebrae in the spine, is bulging or damaged and is causing pain or putting pressure on nearby nerves or the  spinal cord.


    Huntington's disease

     

    A progressive, inherited condition that causes damage to nerve cells in the brain and can affect a person’s movement, cognition and behaviour.

     

    Useful links:

    The Huntington’s Disease Association


    Hydrocephalus

     

    A build-up of fluid in the brain. The excess fluid leads to increased pressure on the brain which can cause damage to the brain tissue.

     

    See our Hydrocephalus and shunts fact sheet

     

    Useful links:

    Shine

    SBH Scotland


  • I

    Idiopathic

     

    If something is idiopathic it means that the cause is unknown.


    Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH)

     

    Idiopathic intracranial hypertension is a condition in which the pressure of the fluid within the skull is increased but there isn’t a known or detectable cause. The increased pressure can lead to headaches, vision problems, and other symptoms.

     

    Useful links:

    Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension UK

    Noninvasive ICP


    Interventional neuroradiologist

     

    A medical specialist that uses imaging techniques, such as MRI or CT scans, to precisely target a therapy. An interventional radiologist may perform procedures like coiling brain aneurysms or treating aneurysms via the blood vessels.


    Intracranial hypotension

     

    Intracranial hypotension is a condition in which the pressure of the fluid within the skull is lower than normal. This can lead to symptoms including headaches (that are often worse when standing), nausea, vomiting, and neck pain.

     

    Useful links:

    CSF Leak Association


  • J

    J - no topics or conditions listed

    If you think there is a topic or condition that we have not yet included and you would like to share your idea with us, please contact the Helpline team by sending an email to helpline@brainandspine.org.uk


  • K

    Kyphosis

     

    A curvature of the spine that causes the upper back to appear more rounded than normal.


  • L

    Labyrinthitis

     

    An infection of the inner ear that causes a delicate structure known as the labyrinth to become inflamed, and which affects your hearing and balance.

     

    See our Dizziness and balance problems booklet


    Lhermitte-Duclos disease

     

    A type of tumour that can affect the brain and that develops from cells in the part of the brain known as the cerebellum.


    Lumbar puncture

     

    A procedure performed to extract cerebrospinal fluid – either to reduce pressure around the spinal cord and brain, or to take a sample of the fluid for analysis – and that involves inserting a hollow needle into the subarachnoid space in the region of the lower back.

     

    See our Lumbar puncture fact sheet


    Lupus

    (also known as systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE)

     

    An inflammatory condition that affects the connective tissue in joints, skin, the nervous system, and other organs.


    Lyme disease

     

    A bacterial infection that is spread to humans by infected ticks, that can cause fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans.


    Lymphoma

     

    A type of tumour that can occur in the brain and spine and develops from cells of the lymphatic system (a part of the immune system.)

     

    See our Spinal tumours booklet


  • M

    Medulla

    (also sometimes known as the medulla oblongata)

     

    The medulla, also called the medulla oblongata, forms the lower part of the brainstem and is involved in regulating involuntary functions within the body, such as heart rate and blood pressure.


    Memory problems

     

    See our Memory problems article


    Meniere's disease

     

    An inner ear disorder that typically causes episodes of vertigo, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), hearing loss, and a sense of ‘fullness’ in the ear.

     

    See our Dizziness and balance booklet


    Meninges

     

    A layered group of three thin membranes, called the dura mater, the arachnoid mater, and the pia mater, that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. The meninges keep the cerebrospinal fluid contained around the brain and spine and this helps to offer further protection.


    Meningioma

     

    A type of tumour that occurs in the brain and spinal cord, and develops from the layers of tissue which surround and protect the brain and spinal cord (known as the meninges.)

     

    Useful links:

    Menigioma UK

    The Acoustic Neuroma and Meningioma Network (AMNET)


    Meningitis

     

    Inflammation of the protective membrane layers, called the meninges, which surround the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is most often caused by a bacterial or viral infection, but sometimes can occur after surgery due to irritation of the membrane layers (this is known as chemical meningitis).

     

    See our Meningitis fact sheet

     

    Useful links:

    Meningitis Now


    Mental health

     

    Useful links:

    Mind

    Sane

    Rethink

    The Priory Group


    Meralgia paraesthetica

     

    A condition in which a nerve on the outside of the hip is compressed and causes tingling, numbness, and sometimes a burning pain in the upper leg on the same side.


    Mesial temporal sclerosis

     

    A medical term for scarring and a loss of nerve cells in a region of the brain called the temporal lobe. It has been associated with some types of epilepsy.


    Migraine

     

    A recurrent type of headache that tends to cause moderate to severe throbbing pain at the front or on one side of the head. Some people experience ‘warning signs,’ including symptoms such as visual disturbances, dizziness, or weakness, before the migraine attack and these early symptoms are called an ‘aura.’

     

    See our Migraine fact sheet

    See our Headache booklet


    Mindfulness

     

    A way of paying attention to the present moment, and to your own thoughts, feelings, and the world around you, often using techniques such as meditation, breathing, and yoga.


    Motor neurone disease

     

    A group of conditions that affect the nerves within the brain and spine that transmit signals sent from the brain, to the muscles of the body. Muscles can eventually weaken, stiffen and waste if they do not receive the signals sent by the brain, leading to weakness and paralysis.

     

    See our Motor neurone disease fact sheet


    Moyamoya disease

     

    A progressive cerebrovascular disorder caused by blocked arteries at the base of the brain in an area called the basal ganglia, and that results in networks of small blood vessels developing to bypass these blockages.

     

    See our Vascular malformations of the brain booklet


    MRA scan

     

    An MRA scan is a Magnetic Resonance Angiography scan. It uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to give a view of specific blood vessels (arteries and veins). MRA may be included with an MRI scan.


    MRI scan

     

    An MRI scan is a Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan. It uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to take detailed pictures of the brain or spine.

     

    See our Brain and spine scans fact sheet


    Multifocal motor neuropathy

     

    A progressive disorder that causes muscle weakness and muscle wasting, most often in the hands and forearms.


    Multiple sclerosis (MS)

     

    A demyelinating condition that affects the lining of cells in the brain, spinal cord, and nerves, and can cause problems with muscle control, vision, balance, sensation, and also cause pain and fatigue.

     

    See our Multiple sclerosis fact sheet


    Muscular dystrophy

    A group of progressive inherited genetic conditions that cause muscle weakness and muscle wasting.

     

    Useful links:

    Muscular Dystrophy Campaign


    Myasthenia gravis

     

    An autoimmune condition that affects the transmission of signals from nerves to muscles. It typically causes painless weakness of specific muscles, including those in the eyes, face, and the muscles used for swallowing.

     

    Useful links:

    Myasthenia Gravis Association


    Myeloma

    (also known as multiple myeloma)

     

    A type of cancer that affects blood cells found inside the bone marrow. It can damage the bones it is present in, and affect the production of healthy blood cells in the body.

     

    See our Spinal tumours booklet


  • N

    Narcolepsy

     

    A condition that affects the brain’s ability to regulate the normal sleep-wake cycle. Symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis, cataplexy, hallucinations and disturbed sleep patterns.

     

    Useful links:

    Narcolepsy UK


    Neck pain

     

    Useful links:

    Back Care


    Neurofibroma

     

    A type of tumour that affects nerves and develops from the lining that surrounds them.

     

    See our Spinal tumours booklet


    Neurofibromatosis

     

    A group of genetic conditions that cause tumours, called neurofibromas, to develop on the nerves in the body.

     

    Useful links:

    The Neurofibromatosis Association


    Neurogenic shock

     

    A form of shock that can follow and injury or trauma to the spinal cord and that can cause low blood pressure and a slowed heart rate.


    Neurologist

     

    A medical doctor who does not perform operations but specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of people with neurological conditions.


    Neuromyelitis optica (NMO)

    (also known as Devic’s disease or Devic’s syndrome)

     

    An inflammatory, demyelinating condition that affects the nerves of the eyes (optic nerves) and the spinal cord, and can cause a wide range of symptoms including blindness, weakness, nerve pain and muscle spasms.

     

    See our Transverse myelitis booklet

     

    Useful links:

    Neuromyelitis Optica UK Specialist Services

    NMO-UK Rare Illness Research Foundation

    Transverse Myelitis Association


    Neuropathic pain

     

    A type of pain that is caused by disease or damage affecting a nerve, and that doesn’t respond to common forms of pain relief.

     

    See our Neuropathic pain article


    Neuropathy

     

    Neuropathy is the result of damage or disease affecting the nerves outside of the brain or spine. Symptoms can include weakness, numbness and pain in the areas that the nerves carry signals to and from.


    Neurophysiotherapist

     

    A chartered physiotherapist that specialises in treating people with neurological conditions. A neurophysiotherapist will asses, plan and treat people with physical problems.


    Neuropsychologist

     

    A psychologist specialising in the functions of the brain, particularly memory, concentration and problem solving.


    Neurosarcoidosis

     

    Neurosarcoidosis is a form of sarcoidosis that is affecting the nervous system, and causes inflammation in the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Symptoms will depend on where in the body is being affected, and can include weakness or paralysis of muscles, and changes in sensation.


    Neurosurgeon

     

    A medical doctor who has further training specifically in the area of the brain and spine, and performs operations.


    Nystagmus

     

    Involuntary movements of the eyes that are most often side to side, but may also be up and down or circular in motion.


  • O

    Occipital neuralgia

     

    A condition in which the nerves, called the occipital nerves, which provide sensation to the scalp and some of the face, and carry signals to some of muscles in the face, are inflamed or injured, causing pain to be felt in the back of the head and neck, and sometimes around or behind the eye.


    Occupational therapist

     

    A specialist health professional who offers practical support and advice on everyday skills and activities, for example, using equipment at home.

     

    Useful links:

    NHS


    Optic neuritis

     

    Inflammation of the nerves that connect to the eyes from the brain. Optic neuritis can occur as a result of infections or autoimmune conditions, and is associated with multiple sclerosis.


    Osteoarthritis

     

    Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints in the body, causing them to become painful and stiff, and it is the most common form of arthritis.


    Osteoma

     

    An osteoma is a type of growth that is made of bone. It is sometimes referred to as a form of tumour.


    Osteoporosis

     

    A condition that causes the structure of bones to become weaker and more susceptible to fractures.

     

    Useful links;

    National Osteoporosis Society


  • P

    Paraesthesia

     

    An abnormal sensation often caused by pressure or damage to a nerve, and includes feelings of tingling, pricking, burning or numbness.


    Paralysis

     

    A loss of muscle function in part of your body.

     

    Useful links:

    Spinal Injuries Association


    Parkinson's disease

     

    A progressive, degenerative condition that affects the brain and can cause problems with movement, rigidity, tremors, and speech.

     

    See our Parkinson’s disease fact sheet


    Perineural cyst

     

    A fluid filled sac that affects nerve roots, often those at the level of the sacrum. These cysts don’t usually cause symptoms, but if they are compressing the nerve root they may cause low back pain, sciatica, incontinence, and other neurological symptoms.


    Persistent vegetative state (PVS)

     

    A disorder of consciousness in which someone appears to be unaware of their environment and are largely unresponsive but experiences a ‘sleep-wake cycle’ and has their eyes open at times, referred to as wakefulness.

     

    Useful links:

    Persistent Vegetative State Support Group


    Physiotherapy

     

    A physical form of therapy that aims to help restore movement, mobility and normal body function.

     

    Useful links:

    Rainbow House Charity


    Pineal cyst

     

    A pineal cyst is a cyst found on the pineal gland in the brain. They are often asymptomatic but in some cases can cause headaches and other symptoms.


    Piriformis syndrome

     

    A condition in which the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated by the piriformis muscle, which is located in the buttocks. It can cause pain, numbness or tingling along the back of the leg and down in to the foot, and can be very similar in presentation to sciatica.


    Pituitary adenoma

     

    A type of tumour that occurs in the brain, and develops from the pituitary gland.


    Pituitary disorders

     

    Useful links:

    The Pituitary Foundation


    Poliomyelitis

    (also known as polio)

     

    An infectious disease caused by the polio virus. Most people may not experience any symptoms, but in some cases it can cause problems such as muscle weakness, paralysis, and meningitis.

     

    Useful links:

    British Polio Fellowship

    Polio Survivors Network


    Post-herpetic neuralgia

     

    A complication of shingles (a condition caused by the chickenpox virus) that affects nerve fibres in the skin and causes a burning pain that continues in an area previously affected by shingles.

     

    See our Face pain booklet


    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

     

    An anxiety disorder that is caused by very stressful or distressing events. Someone with PTSD can experience nightmares or flashbacks to the event, and may also have emotional difficulties, problems sleeping, and other symptoms such as panic attacks.


    Posterior fossa

     

    The space in the back of the skull where the cerebellum usually sits.


    Postural hypotension

    (also known as orthostatic hypotension)

     

    A form of low blood pressure that occurs when you change position from sitting or lying down, to standing up, and can cause symptoms including light-headedness, dizziness, and headache.

     

    See our Dizziness and balance problems booklet


    Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)

    (also known as postural tachycardia syndrome)

     

    A disorder that is characterised by an abnormal increase in heart rate that occurs after sitting up or standing, and that can cause symptoms including dizziness, light-headedness, headaches, and fainting.


    Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP)

     

    A progressive condition that affects the brain and can cause problems with balance, movement, vision, speech, and swallowing.

     

    Useful links:

    Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Association


    Pseudomeningocele

     

    An abnormal collection of cerebrospinal fluid, sometimes found around the surgery site after decompression surgery.


  • R

    Radiologist

     

    A medical professional that performs, reads and writes reports on scans such as angiograms, CT scans, MRI scans, and X-rays.


    Radiosurgery

     

    A form of radiotherapy that uses focussed beams of radiation to damage the cells in targeted areas, in order to stop them from growing or to cause cell death.

     

    See our map of neurological centres in the UK


    Raynaud's syndrome

     

    A condition in which the small blood vessels in the fingers, and sometimes the toes, nose, ears or lips, constrict when exposed to cold temperatures or emotional stress. This causes the skin to become very pale in these areas and it is often painful although sometimes it can also cause numbness.

     

    Useful links:

    Raynaud’s and Scleroderma Association


    Reye's syndrome

     

    A condition that causes damage to the brain and liver and occurs a few days after a viral infection.


  • S

    Sacrum

     

    A large triangular bone found at the bottom of the spine.


    Sarcoma

     

    A term that can be used to described a type of tumour that develops from bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other types of connective or supportive tissue.


    Schwannoma

     

    A type of tumour that affects nerves and develops from the lining that surrounds them. 

     

    See our Spinal tumours booklet


    Scoliosis

     

    An abnormal ‘sideways’ curve in the spine.

     

    Useful links:

    Scoliosis Association (UK)


    Seizures

     

    A burst of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affects how it works. They can cause a wide range of symptoms including changes in behaviour and sudden, uncontrolled body movements.

     

    See our Epilepsy fact sheet


    Sexual dysfunction

     

    Difficulty experienced by an individual or couple during sexual activity, including problems with physical pleasure, desire, preference, arousal or orgasm.

     

    See our Relationships and sex article

     

    Useful links:

    Sexual Advice Association


    Shunt

     

    A device that is used to move a body fluid, such as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), from one place to another.

     

    See our Hydrocephalus and shunts fact sheet


    Speech and language therapist

     

    A specialist health professional that assesses, plans and treats people with communication and swallowing problems.


    Speech problems

     

    Useful links:

    Stroke Association

    Talking Point

    I CAN

    Communication Matters


    Spina bifida

     

    Spina bifida is a congenital condition where the spinal column and the spinal canal don’t completely close up before birth.

     

    Useful links:

    Shine

    SBH Scotland

    Spina Bifida Association (USA)


    Spinal canal

     

    The space formed by the unique shape of the bones of the spine, the vertebrae, that runs down through the spinal column and through which the spinal cord passes.


    Spinal cord

     

    The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that extends from the brain to the lumbar section of the spine, and is situated in the spinal canal.


    Spinal injury

     

    Useful links:

    American Spinal Injury Association

    Aspire 

    Backup Trust

    Multidisciplinary Association of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals

    Spinal Injuries Association


    Spinal muscular atrophy

     

    A progressive genetic condition that affects the nerves in the body and causes muscle wasting.

     

    Useful links:

    The SMA Trust


    Spinal strokes

     

    A spinal stroke is a disruption to the blood supply to the spinal cord, which can cause damage to tissues and can lock messages travelling along the spinal cord.

     

    See our Spinal strokes fact sheet


    Spinal tumours

     

    See our Spinal tumours booklet


    Spondylolisthesis

     

    A spondylolisthesis is when a vertebra in the spine is out of place in relation to the one above or below. This can result from injury to the spine or a degenerative condition, but in rare cases it is present from birth.


    Spondylolysis

     

    A type of fracture that can occur in the spine.


    Spondylosis

     

    Spondylosis is a medical term that describes degenerative changes that occur in the vertebrae of the spine. These changes may be due to advancing age and are sometimes described as ‘wear and tear’of the bones in the spine, or they may be the result of previous injuries or other existing conditions that affect the spine.


    Stroke

     

    A stroke is a disruption to the blood supply to a part of the brain, which causes damage to brain cells by starving them of oxygen. A lack of blood flow can be caused by a blockage in a blood vessel, or can be due to a bleed occurring. The symptoms will depend on what area of the brain has been affected by the lack of blood flow.

     

    See our Stroke fact sheet

     

    Useful links:

    Stroke Association

    Different Strokes


    Subarachnoid haemorrhage

    (sometimes abbreviated to SAH)

     

    A type of stroke that is caused by bleeding on the surface of the brain. The bleed leaks in to a space called the subarachnoid space, which is a space between two of the three protective layers (the meninges) surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

     

    See our Subarachnoid haemorrhage booklet


    Subdural haematoma

     

    A subdural haematoma is a collection of blood between the skull and the surface of the brain. It can occur following a head injury, and can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting, confusion, drowsiness, mood changes and loss of consciousness.


    Syringobulbia

     

    A fluid filled cavity within the brainstem.


    Syringomyelia

     

    A fluid filled cavity within the spinal cord.

     

    Useful links:

    The Ann Conroy Trust

    American Syringomyelia Alliance Project Inc


    Syrinx

     

    A fluid-filled cavity found within the spinal cord or brainstem.


  • T

    Tarlov cyst

     

    See perineural cyst for more information.


    Temperomandibular disorder (TMD)

     

    A condition that affects the movement of the jaw, and which can cause symptoms such as pain around the jaw, headaches, clicking or popping noises when moving the jaw, and restricted jaw movement.

     

    See our Face pain booklet


    Temporal arteritis

     

    An inflammatory condition that affects the arteries, particularly those at the side of the head, and which can cause headaches, pain and tenderness around the jaw and temples, and visual problems.


    Tension-type headache

     

    The most common type of headache that typically feels like a dull ache with constant pressure around the front, top and sides of the head.

     

    See our Headache booklet


    The Brain Charity

     

    The Brain Charity


    Thrombosis

     

    A blood clot that has formed in a blood vessel and is obstructing the flow of blood. The clot itself is termed a thrombus.


    Thunderclap headache

     

    A severe headache that reaches its peak within 60 seconds of onset.


    Tinnitus

     

    A persistent sound in the ears, sometimes described as ringing. The sounds in tinnitus can occur despite there being no external sound or source.


    Tolosa-Hunt syndrome

     

    A condition that causes severe headaches, decreased and painful eye movements, and other neurological symptoms.


    Tonsillar ectopia

     

    This is a medical way of saying that the cerebellar tonsils are not in the usual position, and are extending down into the spinal canal.

     

    You may be interested in reading our Chiari malformation fact sheet.


    Transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

     

    A temporary disruption of the blood flow to an area of the brain, which can affect the functioning of the brain and produce symptoms similar to that of a stroke. A TIA is sometimes described as a ‘mini-stroke.


    Transverse myelitis

     

    An inflammatory disorder that affects the spinal cord and can cause weakness and changes to sensation in the lower body, as well as problems with bowel and bladder control.

     

    See our Transverse myelitis booklet


    Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

     

    See brain injury for more information.


    Trigeminal autonomic cephalgia

     

    A group of disorders that cause headaches or face pain and which also cause other symptoms such as eye-watering, redness of the eyes, a runny or blocked nose, and drooping of the eyelid.


    Trigeminal neuralgia

     

    A chronic pain disorder that affects one of the nerves in the head and neck known as the trigeminal nerve, and causes episodes of sudden, severe face pain.

     

    See our Face pain booklet


  • U

    Undiagnosed

     

    See our Undiagnosed article


  • V

    Vascular malformations of the brain

     

    See our Vascular malformations of the brain booklet


    Vein

     

    A blood vessel that carries deoxygenated blood from the body back towards the heart.


    Ventricle

     

    A ventricle is a fluid filled chamber. In the body there are ventricles within the brain and heart. In the brain, the ventricles are where cerebrospinal fluid is made.


    Vertebra

    (plural vertebrae)

     

    The small, irregular shaped bones that make up the spine.


    Vertigo

     

    The sensation that you, or the environment around you, is moving or spinning. It is sometimes described as dizziness or a feeling of unsteadiness, although these sensations can be distinct and different from vertigo.


    Vestibular neuritis

     

    An infection of the vestibular nerve in the inner ear, which can cause dizziness and balance problems.

     

    See our Dizziness and balance problems booklet


    Vestibular rehabilitation exercises

     

    See our Vestibular rehabilitation exercises fact sheet


  • W

    Wilson's disease

     

    A genetic condition in which a person has higher than normal amounts of copper in their body, and which affects the brain and liver.

     

    Useful links:

    Wilson’s Disease Support Group UK


  • X

    X-ray

     

    An X-ray is a type of imaging that uses radiation to produce an image of the inside of the body. X-rays typically show the bony structures within the body, but can also be used to take images of other parts of the body by injecting them with special dyes for example.


  • Y

    Y - no topics or conditions listed

    If you think there is a topic or condition that we have not yet included and you would like to share your idea with us, please contact the Helpline team by sending an email to helpline@brainandspine.org.uk


  • Z

    Z - no topics or conditions listed

    If you think there is a topic or condition that we have not yet included and you would like to share your idea with us, please contact the Helpline team by sending an email to helpline@brainandspine.org.uk