8 Reasons to See a Neurologist

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

A neurologist is a doctor who diagnoses, treats and manages conditions that affect the nervous system, made up of your brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Neurological disorders and conditions can change the way you move, talk or think. Neurological symptoms depend on what part of the system is affected. You may experience pain and changes in any of your five senses. A neurologist has the expertise necessary to diagnose and treat a range of conditions. Your neurologist may help your primary care doctor take care of you, or she may become your primary care provider in some cases. Here are eight reasons to see a neurologist.

1. You have neuropathic pain.

Neuropathic pain is pain that happens when nerves are damaged from injury or disease. Diabetes can cause this type of nerve damage. Pain may be sharp, shooting or burning. You may also have neuropathic pain from damage to your brain or spinal cord. This type of pain can occur after a stroke. Neuropathic pain does not get better with common pain medicine. A neurologist can help you find the best treatment.

2. You get migraines.

Frequent and severe headaches are a common reason to see a neurologist. In many cases, these are migraine headaches. Migraines can happen often and last from hours to days. You'll have throbbing pain. You also may feel nauseous and be sensitive to light, strong smells or loud sounds. Many people with migraines never get the right diagnosis or treatment. Seeing a neurologist can help you find what's triggering your migraines and figure out how to avoid them. Common triggers are food and stress.  A neurologist may also prescribe medicine to prevent a migraine or stop a migraine when it starts.

3. You have seizures.

Seizures are disturbances in your brain. They can cause strange sensations, uncontrolled movements, or loss of consciousness. To find the cause, a neurologist may do brain testing and imaging. Sometimes treating the cause can stop the seizures. However, some conditions that cause seizures, like epilepsy, can be long term. There are many medications that can prevent or reduce seizures. There are also procedures that may help. A neurologist will look for the best treatment for you and help you manage the condition.

4. You have a brain or spinal cord injury.

Car accidents, falls, and sports injuries can harm your brain or spinal cord. Symptoms depend on what was injured and how much damage was done. Brain injuries can cause headaches, dizziness, seizures and loss of consciousness. They can result in changes in your behavior, thinking and memory. Spinal cord injuries can cause weakness and numbness. You also could lose movement below the area of the injury. A neurologist can create a treatment plan for your unique situation and coordinate your care. This might include medication, physical therapy, and mental health therapy.

5. You have multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a lifelong disorder of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of MS can include changes in vision, weakness, numbness and tingling sensations. Symptoms may come and go, but they progress over time. A neurologist will use results of an exam and imaging studies of your brain and spinal cord to make a diagnosis. Many medications can help control or slow down MS attacks. A neurologist will work with you to find the right treatment.

6. You have Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson's involves loss of brain cells that produce the brain chemical dopamine. Your brain needs dopamine for normal body movements.  Most people who get Parkinson's are past age 60. Symptoms include trembling movements, stiff or slow movement, and clumsiness. There are no tests for Parkinson's, but a neurologist can diagnose the disease after a thorough exam. A neurologist can also help you find the best medication for you and may suggest a treatment called deep brain stimulation.

7. You've had a stroke.

A stroke is a loss of blood supply to part of your brain. The cause could be bleeding in the brain or a blocked blood vessel. Brain cells start to die without their blood supply. A neurologist may diagnose and treat a stroke as it's happening if you or someone around you is quick to call 911. Making a diagnosis includes getting images of the brain.  Treatment may include medicine to dissolve blood clots if a blocked blood vessel caused the stroke. Symptoms of a stroke start suddenly and include:

  • Numbness, usually on one side of the body

  • Weakness, usually on one side of the body

  • Confusion or trouble talking or understanding speech

  • Clumsiness or loss of balance

  • Loss of vision

  • Severe headache

After a stroke, a neurologist will work with you on a rehabilitation program.

8. You're having serious memory issues.

Some forgetfulness is common as people age. More serious problems with memory and thinking are not.  That's especially true if these issues are affecting your day-to-day life.  They could be caused by changes in your brain. These changes usually start slowly and get worse over time.  These changes cause a condition called dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia.   A neurologist can determine if you have the beginnings of dementia or if something else is causing your symptoms. The doctor will do a complete neurological exam. You may have brain scans and various tests of memory and thinking. If you do have dementia, the neurologist can prescribe drugs that may slow down the disease or help ease symptoms like anxiety or restlessness.

A neurologist is not a surgeon, but performs many different neurological tests and works with a neurosurgeon when necessary.

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  1. Working with Your Doctor. American Academy of Neurology. http://patients.aan.com/go/workingwithyourdoctor

  2. What is a Neurological Disorder? Child Neurology Foundation. http://www.childneurologyfoundation.org/patients-or-caregivers/living-neurological-condition/what-is-a-neurologic-disorder/

  3. What is Neuropathic Pain? International Association for the Study of Pain. https://www.iasp-pain.org/files/AM/Images/GYAP/What%20is%20Neuropathic%20Pain.pdf

  4. Epilepsy Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Epilepsy-Information-Page

  5. Traumatic Brain Injury Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.  https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/all-disorders/traumatic-brain-injury-information-page

  6. Spinal Cord Injury Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Spinal-Cord-Injury-Information-Page#disorders-r1

  7. Multiple Sclerosis Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Multiple-Sclerosis-Information-Page

  8. Parkinson’s Disease Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Parkinsons-Disease-Information-Page

  9. Stroke Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/all-disorders/stroke-information-page

  10. Alzheimer's Disease Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet

  11. Alzheimer's and Dementia. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease.asp
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 9
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