A neurologist, or a doctor who specializes in the brain and nervous system, can diagnose, manage, and treat disorders that fall within the realm of neurology. In some cases, though, a patient may not realize the benefits a referral could provide. Consider these signs you may need to see a neurologist; if one or more of them apply to your situation, consider talking to your primary care doctor or searching for “neurologists near me” as soon as you’re able.
1. You have long-term pain or discomfort.
In many cases, patients will seek out a neurologist due to chronic migraines or other severe headaches. Migraines, in particular, are a common neurological condition, manifesting in a throbbing headache that’s often on one side of the head, as well as other symptoms. Beyond migraines, though, your doctor may refer you to a neurologist if you have non-migraine headaches occurring multiple times per week, not responding to over-the-counter treatments, or that are otherwise unexplained.
A neurologist may also diagnose and treat certain forms of chronic pain, especially pain in the back and neck. After all, the spine is a part of the central nervous system, making it clearly part of their jurisdiction. Multiple neurological conditions can lead to chronic pain, including cervical radiculopathy, arachnoiditis, polymyositis, spinal cord or sacral nerve neoplasia, postherpetic neuralgia (shingles), thoracic outlet syndrome, metabolic deficiency myalgias, cutaneous nerve entrapment, polyneuropathies, mononeuritis multiplex, and more. Neurological testing can determine if one of these conditions may be behind your pain and develop a treatment plan to manage your symptoms, if so.
2. You’re dealing with new neurological symptoms.
Chronic pain and migraines are not the only neurological symptoms that may have you seeking a specialist. You may experience a loss of feeling or tingling in parts of the body, unexplained weakness or loss of strength, memory loss, seizures, cognitive decline, difficulties reading or writing, lack of coordination, loss of sight or double vision, decreased attention, and more. These may be signs of common neurologic disorders, such as epilepsy, stroke, ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, or others.
Your neurologist will study your particular symptoms and diagnose any relevant neurologic diseases, working with you to identify what medical care can ease your discomfort and treat these symptoms. While many neurologic disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, have no known cure, there are new treatment options coming out constantly, with scientists making new developments and improving the field as they search for innovative treatments, improved diagnostics, and an eventual cure.
3. You haven’t yet found an answer.
In some cases, a neurologic exam may be deemed necessary when other diagnostic measures have failed. Even with the latest advances in medicine, the human body is a complex being—there are instances in which rare or unrecognized disorders might not be identified, particularly by a general practitioner. For example, someone with chronic unexplained headaches might research the best neurologist in the area after trying over-the-counter treatments to no avail. By seeking out any neurological factors and planning proper treatment, these specialized medical professionals can help them find relief.
It’s important to note, though, that even some neurological conditions go undiagnosed. In some cases, a patient’s symptoms might not point to a clear root cause or condition, making it difficult if not impossible to give a confident diagnosis. Some patients may even be formally diagnosed with unexplained neurological symptoms or functional neurological disorders (FND), meaning their symptoms are very real but no clear cause can be identified.
There are many reasons you might need to see a neurologist, but if any of these apply to you, it’s in your best interest to schedule your appointment as soon as possible.