If you or a loved one has unexplained symptoms that could be related to the brain or nervous system, your doctor may recommend a neurological exam with a specialist.
Neurologists are specialists who treat diseases of the brain and spinal cord, peripheral nerves and muscles. Neurological conditions include epilepsy, stroke multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Nhu Bruce, neurologist at Houston Methodist, also commonly sees patients for:
- Uncontrolled headaches
- Memory loss
- Numbness and pain
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you probably have a lot of questions.
Common reasons to visit a neurologist
“A thorough neurological exam is the most important tool I have as a neurologist,” Dr. Bruce explains. “It can help differentiate and localize the causes of common complaints.”
Dr. Bruce says these are the six signs that it is time to visit a neurologist.
Chronic or severe headaches
If you get migraine headaches, you should probably make an appointment with a neurologist, especially when the symptoms are associated with neurological deficits or tried treatments prove ineffective.
When pain is chronic, and your primary care doctor can’t help you manage it, you should consider a referral to a neurologist because there could be another underlying reason for the symptoms.
Experiencing vertigo (feeling like you’re spinning) or having difficulty keeping your balance could be a sign of something more serious.
Numbness or tingling
Numbness or tingling, especially when it occurs on one side of the body or comes on suddenly, could be a sign of a stroke or other serious condition.
Difficulty walking, shuffling your feet, tremors and unintentional jerks, can all be signs of a nervous system problem.
Memory problems or confusion
Worsening memory problems, personality changes or mixing up words could be signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
What to expect during a neurological exam
A neurologist can help identify the cause of symptoms and create a treatment plan for both common and complex neurological conditions.
During a neurological exam, instruments, such as lights and reflex hammers, may be used to assess the nervous system. Motor skills, balance, coordination and mental status may also be tested.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an example of a complex condition that may be best treated by a neurologist.
“MS has various forms, and the treatment options have changed significantly over recent years,” Dr. Bruce says.
Patients can benefit from the expertise of a neurologist who is familiar with the latest research and treatment options for MS and other neurological conditions.