What Is a Neurologist?
A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in
treating diseases of the nervous system. The nervous system comprises the
central and peripheral nervous system. This complex system involves the spinal
cord and the brain.
Illnesses, disorders, and injuries that involve
the nervous system frequently require a neurologist’s treatment.
In addition to graduating from medical school
and completing an internship, neurologists complete three years’ training in a
neurology residency program.
What Does a Neurologist Do?
Neurologists treat neurological conditions, or
problems with the nervous system. Symptoms that commonly require a neurologist
- coordination problems
- muscle weakness
- a decrease in sensation
People who are having problems with their senses,
such as touch, vision, or smell, may also need to see a neurologist. Problems with
senses are sometimes caused by nervous system disorders.
You may also need to see a neurologist if you
have symptoms of multiple sclerosis, such as tingling, loss of bowel control, or
According to the University of Rochester Medical
Center, neurologists may also treat patients with:
- seizure disorders, such as epilepsy
- infections of the nervous system, including encephalitis,
meningitis, or brain abscesses
- neurodegenerative disorders, such as Lou Gehrig’s disease and
- spinal cord disorders, including inflammatory and autoimmune
- headaches, such as cluster headaches, migraines, and headaches of
Because the nervous system is complex, a neurologist
may specialize in a specific area. Subspecialties have evolved in order to
narrow a doctor’s focus. For example, some doctors specialize in treating
children with neurological problems.
Some examples of subspecialties are:
- headache medicine
- clinical neuromuscular pathology
- neurocritical care
- geriatric neurology
- autonomic disorders
Typical Neurologist Procedures
With a new patient, a neurologist will start
with a physical exam and a neurological exam. A neurological exam will test
muscle strength, reflexes, and coordination. Since different disorders can have
similar symptoms, doctors often need additional testing to make a diagnosis.
Neurologists participate in a variety of
procedures to help diagnose or treat a condition. Typical
If a doctor believes symptoms of an illness are related to a
spinal fluid infection, he or she may perform a lumbar puncture. The procedure
involves inserting a needle into the spine and taking a sample of spinal fluid.
This procedure can help diagnose certain neuromuscular
disorders. It involves the administration of edrophonium chloride.
Also known as an EEG, this test measures electrical activity
in the brain.
Neurologists use other types of tests, as well. Although
they may not perform the diagnostic test, they may order it, review it, and
interpret the results.
In order to make a diagnosis, a neurologist may use:
tomography (CT) scans
resonance imaging (MRI)
emission tomography (PET scan)
Additional diagnostic procedures include sleep studies and
angiography, which determines blockages in the blood vessels going to the