When should I see a neurologist?

Written by: Top Doctors®
Published: | Updated: 12/12/2018
Edited by: Top Doctors®

We all know what a dermatologist does, what conditions a cardiologist can cure, and what problems the dentist can solve when it comes to our health. However, do you know which health problems a neurologist takes care of? We take a look at the types of nervous system and neurological disorders a neurologist deals with, and when is best to see one. 

How can a neurologist help you? 

Neurologists specialise in conditions that affect the brain and the nervous system (both the central and the peripheral nervous system), these may be referred to as neurological disorders.

In other words, the neurologist is the specialist who can help when you suffer from:


  • Headaches (migraine or tension headaches, for example)
  • Neuropathic pain (neuralgia and abnormal sensations such as paraesthesia)
  • Dizziness, vertigo and unsteadiness
  • Transient loss of consciousness (seizures, confusion)
  • Loss of memory and impairment of other higher brain functions (such as speech, attention/concentration and time and place orientation)
  • Abnormal gait and balance
  • Tremors and twitches
  • Loss of strength
  • Certain vision problems (double vision, loss of vision, etc.)
  • Sleep disturbances


Incidence of neurological problems

Around 1 in 6 people will suffer from a neurological disorder at some point in their life. Alzheimer’s, migraines, strokes, Parkinson’s, seizures or multiple sclerosis are some of the conditions that fall into the category of neurological disorders.

One of the roles of the neurologist is to provide advice and information about the impact that these neurological conditions may have on the patient’s family or social life.

The fact that some of these conditions may cause some physical or mental disability often brings additional fear or guilty feelings that the neurologist should try to neutralize.


Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia in the elderly. The main characteristic of this neurological disorder is the deterioration of higher brain functions such as memory, speech, abstraction, calculation, and visuospatial ability or orientation.

Some of the most frequent alarm signals of the initial stages of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia include episodes of forgetfulness (the person becomes repetitive), disorientation of place and time, sudden disorder and confusion, difficulty finding words to express him/herself, inability to solve sudden issues or problems, apathy and neglect of personal image.


Do I need a GP referral to see a neurologist?

Many patients have an appointment with the neurologist because they are referred by their GP after making a preliminary diagnosis of a possible neurological problem. However, people can also request an appointment without a referral.

When you go to the neurologist, the specialist will study your medical history, and take time to clarify the diagnosis. Neurological physical examination is also performed and often, the entire process is based on complementary or diagnostic tests.


What tests does a neurologist perform?

Depending on the neurological problem of each patient, neurologists may recommend imaging tests, such as CT scans (computed tomography scans), MRI (cranial and spinal magnetic resonance imaging), TSA or transcranial Doppler (a type of ultrasound); neuropsychological tests (to assess attention, memory and language, among other functions), analysis (of cerebrospinal fluid, for example), electroencephalography or electromyography (to detect changes in the nerves and muscles) and sleep studies (polysomnography).


By Topdoctors

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