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Functional Neurological Disorder: Early Signs and Symptoms

Functional neurological disorder (FND), or conversion disorder, as some people know it, is a disease where electrical signals in the brain aren’t communicating correctly. The body relies on these signals for everything from movement to digestion, so disruption can be catastrophic. While there isn’t a mechanical or structural cause for FND, there are several symptoms that can lead to an early diagnosis.

Limb Weakness or Paralysis

One of the first symptoms people with functional neurological disorder will experience is limb weakness or paralysis. Depending on how severe the disruption in electrical communication is, the limbs may not be receiving any signals to move. This can lead to an unsteady gait, numbness, muscle weakness, and eventual paralysis as the condition worsens. Unlike structural nerve disorders such as multiple sclerosis, these sensations aren’t constant. It’s not uncommon for symptoms to pop up for a few days and then disappear for weeks.

Another aspect of limb weakness that’s common in FND patients is spasticity or dystonia. Because the nerves can’t deliver signals properly, the muscles and tendons don’t flex and release smoothly. This can cause spasms, muscle twitches, and chronic tremors in the limbs and muscles. While these flexion issues aren’t necessarily painful, they can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, depending on their severity. People who have trouble getting their limbs to work properly may want to talk to their doctors about an FND diagnosis.

Coordination Issues

Another common problem people with functional neurological disorders experience is coordination issues. While it’s common to think that the nerves only monitor pain, they actually help transfer signals all across the body. Without clear communication between synapses, the muscles don’t know how to contract properly. Many patients with FND have difficulty walking without assistance. Their gait will often be out of rhythm, and balancing will be difficult for people with this disorder. If dystonia causes leg tremors, walking may become even more of a challenge for FND patients.

Along with difficulty walking, many people with functional neurological disorder often have seizures. For many people, these seizures don’t look the same as their traditional epileptic counterparts. Rather than a burst of frenetic body movements, many FND seizures are characterized by periods of dissociation or loss of consciousness. These symptoms can be easily confused with other disorders, even some mental health disorders, so diagnosis and treatment must be made quickly. Anyone struggling with seizures or a sudden inability to balance should contact a healthcare professional for help.

Speech and Vision Distortions

Finally, FND brings speech and vision distortion. When nerve signals are disrupted before they reach their final destination, fine skills like the five senses are some of the first to be affected. As the disorder worsens, many patients have difficulty speaking clearly in conversations. Their speech may sound slurred or garbled, or they may even just be speaking at an improper volume for the situation. Seemingly simple conditions such as stuttering can be symptoms of functional neurological disorder, as the brain and mouth aren’t able to communicate effectively.

Along with speech disruptions, many FND patients also experience problems with their vision. For many people with this disorder, the visual symptoms are distracting and disorienting. Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, people may experience blurry vision, double vision, or even complete blindness. As the disorder worsens, these symptoms tend to worsen along with it. Early disease detection and treatment are essential for people experiencing these speech and vision distortions.

To summarize, functional neurological disorder is a rare disease that can pose as many different issues. While these symptoms may be harmless or merely annoying early on, it’s essential to seek treatment if they persist.



About the Author: Carol Evenson is a loving mother of three, an aspiring writer, and a social activist. She enjoys educating and learning and loves sharing her knowledge with her family and friends.

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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