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What is Alzheimer's?

This is the most common cause of dementia. During the course of the disease, the chemistry and structure of the brain changes, leading to the death of brain cells.

What is Asperger's Syndrome?

As soon as we meet a person we make judgements about them. Just by looking we can guess their age or status, and by the expression on their face or the tone of their voice we can tell immediately if they are happy, angry or sad and respond accordingly. Not everyone has this natural ability. People with Asperger syndrome find it more difficult to read the signals which most of us take for granted. As a result they find it more difficult to communicate and interact with others.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a controllable but not curable disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says 100 to 150 million people around the world are asthmatic and the number is growing by 50% every decade. It causes 180,000 deaths a year. Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory lung disease characterised by recurrent breathing problems. People with the disease suffer "attacks", or acute episodes, when the air passages in their lungs narrow and breathing becomes difficult.

Attacks are caused by the airways over-reacting to certain environmental factors. They then become inflamed and clogged. They are described as feeling similar to taking deep breaths of very cold air in winter. Breathing becomes harder and may hurt, and there may be coughing. The air may make a wheezing or whistling sound. There is an increase number of children who suffer from this

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people around them. Children and adults with autism have difficulties with everyday social interaction. Their ability to develop friendships is generally limited as is their capacity to understand other people's emotional expression.

People with autism can often have accompanying learning disabilities but everyone with the condition shares a difficulty in making friends, communicating with others and have problems in social settings.

Although it was first identified in 1943, autism is still a relatively unknown disability. Yet autistic spectrum disorders are estimated to touch the lives of over 500,000 families throughout the UK.

People with autism are not physically disabled in the same way that a person with cerebral palsy may be; they do not require wheelchairs and they 'look' just like anybody without the disability. Due to this invisible nature it can be much harder to create awareness and understanding of the condition.

Because an autistic child looks 'normal' others assume they are naughty or the parents are not controlling the child. Strangers frequently comment on this 'failing'. Some people with autism, whilst being appearing to be stupid or thick, may actually have a skill, such as an artist, that they can excel in.

What is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia is generally recognised to be an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement. Associated with this may be problems of language, perception and thought. It is also known as clumsy child syndrome, developmental co-ordination disorder and motor-learning difficulty.

Dyspraxia is an immaturity in the way the brain processes information and this results in messages not being properly or fully transmitted. Estimates put the number of children experiencing the condition at between 2 and 10% of the population. Boys are four times more likely to be effected than girls.

In some cases Dyspraxia is not identified until the child reaches secondary school. He/she may have managed to cope through their previous schools with only minor difficulties. However, the structure of secondary schools may prove to be too difficult for the child and it is at this point that problems manifest themselves especially in view of the organisational skills that are required in secondary education. If Dyspraxia is not identified and the child enters secondary education there can be such a high incidence of low self esteem and disaffection that behavioural difficulties are evident.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a condition which causes widespread pain and severe fatigue. It cannot be treated, and people with the condition have to find ways of managing their symptoms.

The term combines "fibro" - which means fibrous, with "my" - muscles and "algia" - pain. Paragraph: It is a collection of symptoms, rather than a specific disease. As well as pain and fatigue, it can cause headaches or migraines, irritable bowel syndrome and can affect sleep. Although other conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome/ME, can lead to similar symptoms, fibromyalgia is defined as widespread pain for at least three months which is experienced in at least 11 specified points around the body Anyone who has ME, can usually think back to getting a virus, which left them with ME. People with fibromyalgia are unable to do this.

What causes it? It appears that it is usually triggered by some kind of trauma, such as a car accident, a viral infection or an operation, although some cases develop without any obvious trigger.

Researchers are still investigating the actual cause of fibromyalgia. However, scientists have suggested a deficiency in levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which helps deliver messages between cells in the brain. This can lead to a problem in the way the brain processes messages about pain, meaning people feel pain where others might experience a slight ache or stiffness.

What treatment?

The Fibromyalgia Association recommends using relaxation techniques.The association says the most important thing is for people to listen to their bodies, and to slow down when they need to. Stretching and relaxation exercises are said to help.

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the most common disabling neurological condition affecting young adults. Around 85,000 people in the UK have MS. MS is the result of damage to myelin - a protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres of the central nervous system. When myelin is damaged, this interferes with messages between the brain and other parts of the body. For some people, MS is characterised by periods of relapse and remission while for others it has a progressive pattern. For everyone, it makes life unpredictable.