Neurological conditions can take many forms and be debilitating in more ways than one. Early intervention treatment is often critical in preserving a person’s independence and quality of life for as long as possible, but this relies on a fast diagnosis. If you begin to notice neurological symptoms and you’re worried, it’s natural that you’ll be wondering when to see a neurologist, and also how to see a neurologist quickly.
In this article, we’re going to look at neurology in more detail, as well as when you should think about booking an appointment with a specialist and how to fast-track the process.
What is a Neurologist?
A neurologist is a medical doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord and nervous system. They are experts in the complex workings of the brain and nervous system, which controls all of the body’s functions.
For this reason, neurologists are involved in the treatment of patients with a wide range of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, dystonia, Huntington’s disease, stroke, and more. They work with patients from diagnosis through to treatment, using their knowledge to determine what could be causing symptoms and what the most appropriate form of treatment might be.
Most neurological disorders are incurable, instead relying on early intervention and effective symptom management in order to maintain a good and prolonged quality of life for the patient. This is why neurologists are involved early on in the diagnostic stages, and why they’re heavily involved in developing personalised treatment plans that address the unique needs of each patient to improve their quality of life where possible.
What Does a Neurologist Test For?
When you see a neurologist, they will typically perform a comprehensive neurological exam to assess your symptoms, and look at your health records and family history to determine what the underlying cause might be. Some of the things that neurologists commonly test for during an initial consultation include:
- Motor function: Your neurologist will evaluate your muscle strength, tone and coordination to assess your motor function and identify any cause for concern.
- Sensory function: They will also assess your ability to feel sensations like touch, temperature and pain, noting any sensitives or lack thereof.
- Reflexes: Your neurologist will test your reflexes which, if impaired, can be a sign of nerve damage or other neurological conditions.
- Coordination and balance: They will then evaluate your balance and coordination to determine if there is any neurological impairment – again indicative of neurological damage.
- Cognitive function: Your neurologist will assess your memory, attention and other cognitive functions to evaluate the health of your brain, looking to rule out conditions like dementia which can cause cognitive decline.
- Vision and eye movement: Finally, your neurologist will evaluate your visual acuity and eye movement to assess the function of your optic nerves.
By conducting these tests, your neurologist can better determine the likely underlying cause of your symptoms and develop an effective treatment plan early on.
6 Signs You Should See a Neurologist Quickly
There are hundreds of neurological conditions and therefore hundreds of symptoms, too. This can make it hard to know when there’s cause for concern; however, there are some common symptoms that are associated with a number of neurological conditions. Here are some of them:
1. Persistent headaches
Everyone gets headaches from time to time – they’re mostly normal and can be caused by a range of things, such as stress or dehydration. That being said, persistent or severe headaches may be a sign of a more serious condition. Migraines, tension headaches and cluster headaches are all neurological conditions that can greatly affect your day-to-day life and overall wellbeing, affecting your ability to work and live freely. If you notice that you’re getting intense and frequent headaches that don’t seem to go away and that are debilitating to you, it’s worth booking an appointment with a neurologist.
2. Dizziness or vertigo
If you’re experiencing unexplained dizziness or the feeling that the room is spinning, you may need to see a neurologist. This can be caused by conditions like Meniere’s disease or vertigo which, if left untreated, can affect your ability to work and live your life as you normally would. If you are experiencing dizzy spells, it’s worth seeing a neurologist as they can diagnose the issue and prescribe you with medication or other therapies that can help to mitigate your symptoms.
3. Numbness or tingling
If you’re experiencing numbness or tingling in your arms, legs, or other parts of your body, it could be a sign of nerve damage or a neurological condition. A neurologist can help diagnose the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan that is bespoke to you.
Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain and can be a symptom of a serious neurological condition like epilepsy. If you’re experiencing seizures – even if you have just one – it’s important to see a neurologist to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
5. Memory loss or confusion
Memory loss and confusion can be a sign of a neurological condition that affects brain function, like Alzheimer’s disease. A neurologist can help diagnose your condition early and develop a treatment plan to slow the progression of your condition. In instances where cognitive decline is caused by a neurological condition, early intervention is crucial, meaning the quicker you see a neurologist, the better your outcome may be.
6. Muscle weakness
If you’re experiencing muscle weakness or difficulty with movement, it may be a sign of a neurological condition like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease. A neurologist can help diagnose movement disorders and develop a treatment plan to manage symptoms and improve your quality of life, preserving your independence for as long as possible.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or have other concerns about your health, it’s important that you don’t hesitate to seek professional medical help. A lot of these symptoms can be linked to manageable and less serious health and lifestyle conditions, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
Neurological Exams and Procedures
When you make an appointment with a neurologist, they will typically undertake a variety of tests and procedures to help diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms, usually by a process of elimination. Some common neurological tests and procedures you may undergo include:
An EEG is a test that measures the electrical activity in your brain. It’s often used to diagnose conditions like epilepsy and sleep disorders. During an EEG, electrodes are attached to your scalp and connected to a machine that records your brain activity.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
An MRI is a non-invasive imaging test that uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of your brain and spinal cord. It’s often used to diagnose conditions like brain tumours, multiple sclerosis and stroke.
Computed tomography (CT) scan
A CT scan is another type of non-invasive imaging test, but this one uses X-rays and a computer to produce detailed images of your brain and spinal cord. It’s often used to diagnose conditions like bleeding in the brain, stroke and brain tumours.
Nerve conduction studies (NCS)
NCS is a test that measures the electrical signals in your nerves. It’s mostly used to diagnose conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and peripheral neuropathy. During an NCS, electrodes are attached to your skin and a small electrical current is applied to your nerves.
EMG is a test that measures the electrical activity in your muscles. It’s typically used to diagnose conditions like muscular dystrophy and ALS. During an EMG, a small needle is inserted into the muscle to measure the electrical activity.
A lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, is a test that involves the removal of a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid from your spinal cord. It’s often used to diagnose conditions like meningitis, multiple sclerosis and certain types of cancer. During a lumbar puncture, a needle is inserted into your lower back to collect the fluid.
These are just a few of the common neurological tests and procedures that your neurologist may undertake to help diagnose a neurological disorder. It’s important to discuss any concerns you have about testing with your neurologist, as they can help you understand what to expect and answer any questions you may have. While these tests can be uncomfortable or intimidating, they play a critical role in diagnosing neurological conditions and developing effective treatment plans.
Fast Neurology Appointments at Dementech Neurosciences
As mentioned, a lot of neurological conditions can’t be cured, but instead they are managed over time. The earlier you see a neurologist and get a diagnosis, the sooner you can begin treatment and the better your outcomes will be. At Dementech Neurosciences, we have a team of private, industry leading neurologists who are specialists across a wide range of neurological issues and disorders. We don’t require a referral from your GP; if you’re concerned about your health and have neurological symptoms, you can book an appointment with a specialist immediately. We offer a fast-track service, including same-day appointments where possible, as well as testing and results within 48 hours. If you are looking to see a neurologist quickly, contact us today.