Disorders of the Nervous System

The nervous system consists of the brain, the spinal cord, and the network of nerves that extends throughout the body. Serious disorders of this system are uncommon in children, although disabling conditions may be present from birth due to defects that occur during pregnancy. The nervous system is sometimes affected by minor disorders and, rarely, by infections and cancers.

Damage to the nervous system, either before birth or in early childhood, can result in varying degrees of physical disability. The first articles in this section describe defects that occur during the development of the spinal cord and brain, causing disorders such as spina bifida and cerebral palsy.

Children are commonly affected by minor disorders of the nervous system, such as headache and migraine, which are described next. Migraine may be more difficult to recognize in young children than in adults because the main symptom is often abdominal pain or vomiting rather than headache. Further articles discuss serious disorders of great concern to parents, including meningitis, which is a dangerous infection of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord, and Reye’s syndrome, an inflammation of the brain and liver. The final articles describe tumours of the brain and of the spinal cord, both of which are rare in children.

Epilepsy, which usually develops in childhood, is discussed in general nervous system disorders.

Key anatomy

For further information on the structure and function of the nervous system, see Pain Relief Using TENS.

Neural Tube Defects


Cerebral Palsy

Headache in Children

Migraine in Children

Meningitis in Children

Febrile Convulsions

Reye’s Syndrome

Brain and Spinal Cord Tumours in Children


From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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