What to look for when visiting a neurologist?
Having a primary care physician ensures that you have someone responsible for coordinating your medical care. This helps prevent information from being lost or tests from being repeated unnecessarily. It also reduces the possibility of drug interactions and overdose. However, if you’ve already been diagnosed with a neurological condition, or simply want another opinion, seeing a neurologist is the appropriate option.
Warning symptoms may include
- Weakness on one side of the body
- Generalized cramping
- Loss of balance, coordination or muscle strength
- Back pain
- Fainting spells
- Loss of consciousness
- Memory loss that interferes with normal activities
- Movement disorders (facial tics, tremors)
- Problems walking or falling
Problems with senses such as touch, vision, hearing/vertigo, and smell may also require a visit to a neurologist.
Problems with the senses may not be identifiable and may be due to an organ-specific disorder, such as acute vision loss or dizziness, and should be diagnosed by an ophthalmologist or otolaryngologist.
Headaches and back pain
Most people may suffer from headaches due to minor illnesses such as tension or a cold. On the other hand, some people experience severe headaches such as migraines. In rare cases, headaches may be caused by serious conditions such as intracranial hemorrhage or increased intracranial pressure. Patients with disabling headaches may need to be managed by a neurologist.
Most causes of back pain are due to problems in the bony joints and muscles. A neurological evaluation may be needed to rule out nerve root entrapment or peripheral nerve problems, especially if the pain is in the limbs.
Dizziness and balance
Dizziness can be felt in different ways by different people. For example, dizziness may be accompanied by the sensation that the world is spinning, like being on a merry-go-round, especially if it is recurrent. The most common cause is a problem with the inner ear or balance organs, which requires the involvement of an otolaryngologist. In neurology, we often see patients with non-equilibrium or balance problems. A balance disorder means a lack of coordination and balance when standing or walking.
Numbness and tingling
Like dizziness, numbness and tingling can be caused by a variety of medical problems. Many of these problems can be addressed by your primary care physician, but some may require consultation with a neurologist. Numbness and tingling occur quickly and are most concerning when symptoms occur on only one side of the body. If they are recurrent, progress over time, and are accompanied by weakness and visual or balance disturbances, all of these symptoms may be serious signs of stroke, cancer, multiple sclerosis, etc., and require urgent or immediate evaluation. These symptoms may also be associated with peripheral nerve disease.
On the other hand, benign cases such as anxiety and nutritional deficiencies can cause sensations of numbness and tingling in the fingers that appear over a short period of time.
Weakness and babbling
Some people confuse weakness with fatigue. For example, true weakness is when you can lift a weight that you were able to lift before, but no matter how hard you try, you can no longer lift it. Fatigue is when you can lift a weight if you put all your effort into it, but it feels harder and heavier. Weakness usually only affects certain muscle groups, while fatigue affects all muscle groups.
This distinction is important because fatigue can be caused by benign problems such as lack of sleep or minor illnesses, while weakness can mean something more significant such as a stroke (when it occurs suddenly or affects only one side of the body) or neuromuscular disease (when weakness progresses, especially with muscle wasting)! Other symptoms may include drooping eyelids, double vision of objects, change in voice (nasal or slurred), and loss of strength in the evening or after exercise.
Mobility and walking difficulties
Movement disorders include clumsiness, tremors, stiffness, involuntary movements, and difficulty walking. Some patients suffer from ataxia, the inability to perform certain movements, such as brushing their teeth, despite having the necessary coordination and muscle strength. Most people have a tremor that is barely noticeable, but if they drink too much coffee or feel anxious, the tremor can worsen. If the tremor interferes with your daily life, you may need to see a neurologist. Tremors do not automatically indicate Parkinson’s disease, as they can be caused by other factors such as smoking or medication. Slow and painful movements, abnormal posture, blinking a lot, poor vision, photophobia (discomfort with light), facial tics, walking slowly, abnormal posture, falling down for no reason, etc. need to be diagnosed by a neurologist.