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Neurology

Understanding Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders are diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system, which regulate and coordinate body activities. In other words, the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles.

Dementia is a progressive degeneration of the brain and its ability to function. It is a serious condition that changes a person’s personality and affects their ability to go about their daily life. Dementia mostly occurs in the elderly.

 

People with dementia suffer from worsening memory, particularly in relation to new information. At first, they may notice things like losing their keys more often, but as the disease progresses they may no longer recognize their own family members. They also worsen in their ability to make judgements, to manage their affairs, and to plan things. People with dementia lose social skills, and often have problems controlling their mood, with a tendency to become irritable or agitated. The symptoms typically emerge and worsen over a period of years.

 

There are a number of different causes of dementia, of which the most common is Alzheimer’s disease, linked with the build-up of abnormal amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain. Certain other types of dementia also have an abnormal build-up of tau protein in the brain; as a group, these are termed tauopathies.

 

People with dementia will ultimately become completely dependent on a caregiver. However, a limited number of symptomatic treatments are available that can improve a person’s functioning and quality of life, particularly in earlier stages of the disease.

 

Get a deeper understanding of Alzheimer's disease here.

Movement disorders are associated with abnormal and involuntary movements. Broadly, movement disorders can be split into those where the affected person moves too much (e.g., Tourette syndrome or Huntington’s disease), and those where the affected person moves too little (e.g., Parkinson’s disease or multiple system atrophy).

 

Tourette syndrome is associated with involuntary, repetitive movements or vocal sounds, known as tics, which emerge during childhood. 

 

Parkinson’s disease is a long-term and progressive brain disease that mostly occurs in the elderly. It causes tremor, slowness of movement, stiffness, and balance problems, as well as a large group of symptoms that are not related to movement (e.g., pain, mental health issues, and problems with thinking and memory). Multiple system atrophy has similar movement symptoms to Parkinson’s disease, but it is rarer, progresses more rapidly, is harder to diagnose, and has fewer treatment options.

 

Movement disorders are a source of stigma and can interfere with an individual’s ability to function in daily life. Whereas Tourette syndrome may improve with age, people with a progressive brain disease will ultimately become completely dependent on a caregiver.

 

Get a deeper understanding of Tourette syndrome here and Parkinson’s disease here.

Whereas acute pain is the body’s way of warning us about damage, chronic pain arises due to a malfunction of the body’s pain system. Neuropathic pain is an example of chronic pain, caused by damage to nerve cells by injury, poison, or as a consequence of some other disorder. Neuropathic pain can be excruciating, affecting a person’s quality of life, mood, sleep, relationships, and ability to work.

 

Headache is pain that occurs in the head. Headaches are extremely common, and can be ‘primary’, such as migraine, tension-type headache and cluster headache, or ‘secondary’, meaning that they are a consequence of another disorder. Migraine is associated with moderate to severe headaches that are accompanied by nausea and/or sensitivity to light and sound. During a migraine, which last for hours or days, a person may be unable to go about their daily life. Tension-type headaches are, in general, mild to moderate and not associated with nausea while cluster headaches are a relatively rare and severe type of headache usually felt around a person’s eye or temple.

 

Get a deeper understanding of neuropathic pain here and migraine here.

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