You know perfectly what medical professionals such as a dermatologist, a traumatologist or a surgeon handle, but … Do you really know how a neurologist can help you and what diseases it treats?
Discover the functions of the neurologist thanks to this post, where we are going to answer the question ‘’How neurologist work?’’ We will explain what neurologists do, what diseases they treat and the importance of their specialty.
How neurologist work?
The neurologist listens to the patient and asks him about specific aspects of his ailments. Then it explores the nervous system by verifying how muscle strength, reflexes, sensitivities, balance and many other aspects work according to the disorder for which the patient consults.
According to the World Health Organization, hundreds of millions of people suffer from neurological disorders in the world. Despite continuing to be a taboo subject, neurology is an essential branch of medicine so that people affected by these diseases do not see their daily lives so compromised.
In fact, more than 6 million people die each year from cerebrovascular damage. Almost 8 million new cases of dementia are diagnosed annually, causing some 50 million people to suffer from problems similar to this.
Additionally, 700 million people suffer from migraine episodes at some point. This is about 10% of the world’s population. And not only: more than 50 million people suffer seizures of epilepsy more or less frequently.
For this reason, the work of neurologists is vital so that these diseases so common and, at the same time, so serious, can be treated.
What is a neurologist?
The neurologist is the specialist who takes care of diseases of the brain and the rest of the nervous system (both central and peripheral and autonomic).
That is, it’s the doctor who can help you when you suffer from headache (migraine or tension headache, for example), neuropathic pain (neuralgia and abnormal sensations such as paresthesia), dizziness, vertigo, instability, transient alterations of consciousness (epileptic seizures, confusion, etc.).
As well as memory deficits and other higher functions (such as language, attention-concentration and temporal-spatial orientation), gait and balance disorders, tremors and tics, loss of strength, certain vision problems (double vision, loss of sight, etc.), sleep disturbances, etc.
What is the role of the neurologist?
Neurology is the branch of medicine that deals with the study of diseases and disorders of the nervous system. That is, it’s the discipline that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of conditions in the brain, spinal cord, nerves, neuromuscular junctions, etc.
The nervous system is the one that is in charge of regulating all the properties of our body, as it’s the transport route that allows communication between the different organs and tissues. When you suffer from a disorder, diseases arise that are usually serious.
These neurological diseases are very diverse but their health consequences are usually: difficulty speaking, conduct disorders, impaired mobility and swallowing ability, respiratory problems, learning, memory and perception difficulties, altered state of mind.
What types of neurologists are there?
In any case, the range of neurological diseases is very large. For this reason, neurologists specialize in subspecialties and each one of them studies specific disorders.
Here are the top 13 types of neurologists, detailing what diseases they study and what their goal is.
1. General neurologists
The general clinical neurologist performs an evaluation of different neurological disorders such as migraines, multiple sclerosis, back pain, vertigo, dizziness, ataxia (loss of control of movements), etc.
Generally, a general neurologist can already diagnose and offer treatment for most diseases of the nervous system. However, if you consider it appropriate, you can refer to another subspecialty.
Neurophysiologists are responsible for studying nerve disorders that cause nerve signals not to travel through the body as they should. Through the monitoring of nerve impulses (through encephalograms, electromyography, evoked potentials …) they evaluate the neurological functions of patients.
With this, they are able to diagnose diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome (loss of sensation in the hand), cubital tunnel syndrome (compression of the elbow nerves), peripheral neuropathies, radiculopathies (loss of sensitivity in the spinal cord), neck pain and back, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the neck), myopathies, myositis and neuromuscular disorders.
3. Neurologists of neuromuscular disorders
Neuromuscular disorders are long-term affectations, that is, a slow degeneration occurs. These diseases are not curable, so the function of this type of neurologist is to offer the patient a treatment that improves the quality of life of the person and slows down the development of the disease.
The diseases they treat are the following: muscular dystrophies, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), peripheral neuropathies, myopathies, myositis, myasthenia gravis (rapid fatigue of the muscles), spinal muscular atrophy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (weakness in the limbs), etc.
4. Neurologists of movement disorders
These types of neurologists specialize in disorders of the nervous system that cause alterations in the movement of those affected. They cannot be cured, but some of them (dystonia and spasticity) can be treated by injections of botulinum toxin, which prevents unwanted movement of the muscles.
The diseases they study are the following: Parkinson’s, tics, hereditary tremors, dystonia and spasticity (involuntary contractions), dyskinesia (involuntary movements), myoclonus (abnormal muscle movements), etc.
5. Epilepsy neurologists
Given its high incidence, there are neurologists specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy. Using a neurological exam (usually an EEG) and a blood test, the neurologist can determine if the person has this condition.
If the diagnosis is positive, the neurologist will start the treatment. Medications are usually effective, although if they do not cure the disease, brain surgery may be performed.
6. Pediatric neurologists
Pediatric neurologists focus on the study of all those most common neurological disorders in newborns and children: epilepsy, headache, brain malformations, autism, movement disorders, hereditary diseases, cerebral palsy, etc.
7. Cerebrovascular neurologists
Cerebrovascular neurologists are responsible for the study of neurological diseases caused by poor blood circulation in the brain.
Therefore, these neurologists treat the following diseases: aneurysms, strokes, brain hemorrhages, vascular malformations in the brain and spinal cord, carotid stenosis (narrowing of the carotid artery), etc.
8. Behavioral and memory neurologists
This type of neurologist is in charge of studying all those nervous system disorders that result in behavioral disturbances or memory loss.
Therefore, behavioral neurologists focus on the following diseases: Alzheimer’s, memory disorders, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (a type of spongiform encephalopathy), dementia, etc.
9. Geriatric neurologists
There are certain neurological disorders that are usually linked to advanced age. Geriatric neurologists, therefore, are in charge of studying diseases of the nervous system that have a greater incidence in the population older than, normally, 65 years.
They are disorders that appear due to the aging of the nervous system itself, as neurons lose functionality and conditions end up. For this reason, this subspecialty also receives the name of “neurology of aging”.
Thus, the diseases that geriatric neurologists treat most frequently are dementias, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, movement disorders, epilepsy, swallowing and breathing difficulties, alterations in the senses, dizziness, vertigo, etc.
10. Neurologists of the autonomic nervous system
The autonomic nervous system is in charge of regulating the involuntary functions of our body. That is, it’s the part of the nervous system that we do not control but that allows us to carry out movements without the need to “think” about them: breathing, heartbeat, digestion, bowel movements, salivation, blinking, urination, etc.
Neurologists of the autonomic nervous system study all the conditions that we can suffer in this system and that compromise the correct performance of the involuntary (and essential) movements of our body.
Thus, the diseases that these neurologists treat are: Adie syndrome (enlarged pupil), hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), tachycardia (alteration in the rhythm of the heartbeat) and multisystemic atrophy (impaired breathing and control of bladder and muscles).
11. Neuro oncologists
Neuro oncologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of all cancers that develop in the brain and spinal cord. They are not very common, but they are very dangerous for the life of the person.
Among the most common malignant tumors of the nervous system we have: astrocytic tumors, medulloblastomas, mixed gliomas, oligodendroglial tumors, pineal parenchymal tumors, meningeal tumors, craniopharyngioma, ependymal tumors, etc.
12. Neuro radiologists
Neuro-radiologists are diagnostic specialists. That is, they are those who apply various techniques to determine the presence of diseases in the nervous system so that other neurologists can continue their work.
They obtain images of the nervous system using computerized axial tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging, radiography, and ultrasound. This is essential for a correct diagnosis.
13. Sleep neurologists
These neurologists specialize in treating sleep disorders caused by disturbances of the nervous system. Thus, sleep neurologists focus their study on the following diseases: insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, etc.
In many cases, the neurologist also deals with changes in the nervous system resulting from other diseases. This is the case of high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or some trauma.
So, how neurologist work?
The neurologist listens to the patient and asks him about specific aspects of his ailments. Then it explores the nervous system by verifying how the muscular strength, reflexes, sensitivities, balance and many other aspects work according to the disorder for which the patient consults.
In addition, the neurologist uses, when necessary, the most modern technologies to confirm or discover the cause of their disorders. Sometimes the collaboration of a psychologist is required to diagnose the mental aspects of the problems for which they are consulted.
The neurologist always collaborates with your family doctor, so that the control of the treatment and the monitoring of the evolution of your disease is guaranteed.
When someone recommends that we go to a neurologist, be it another health professional or a relative or acquaintance, it generates a feeling of uneasiness, fear, uneasiness because we usually associate Neurology with a serious disorder, an irreversible disorder, a degenerative disorder, a disorder that causes dependency. But this is not so.
Always before the appearance of the first symptoms and with information about the time of discomfort, the frequency of discomfort and the existence of other accompanying symptoms, so that the neurologist can individualize neurological care and our discomfort or disease is mitigated from the best possible way and we can enjoy a higher quality of life.
FAQS: How neurologist work?
Why would you need to see a neurologist?
The main reason for consulting a neurologist is the suspicion that there is a pathology related to a failure in the nervous system. The problem with these pathologies is that there is a wide range of associated symptoms and, in turn, neurological diseases are multiple.
How long does it take to see a neurologist?
The appointment with the neurologist can last up to 1 hour if no additional tests are required. The professional will perform the physical tests, ask about your symptoms and consult your medical history.
How does a neurologist diagnose?
Initially, at your first appointment with the neurologist, you will have a physical and neurological exam. Evaluating mainly muscle strength, reflexes and coordination. If the results of the neurological exam are not normal, the neurologist will order more tests such as a blood test or imaging study.
Can you go straight to a neurologist?
Many patients come to the neurologist’s office referred by the family doctor. However, you can also make an appointment directly with the specialist doctor.
How does a neurologist check for nerve damage?
The neurologist recommends evaluations such as electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (CNV) tests to determine if there is nerve damage.
In this post we answered the question ‘’How neurologist work?’’ We explained what neurologists do, what diseases they treat and the importance of their specialty.
Have you already discovered the functions of the neurologist?
If you have any questions or comments please let us know!
Larner, A., Farmer, S.F. (1999) “Neurology”. BMJ Clinical Research.
Taylor, L., Lukas, R., Safdieh, J.E., Sigsbee, B. (2012) “Subspecialization in neurology: the role of the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties”. Neurology.