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What does a neurologist do, and when should you see one?


neurologists looking at brain scansWhat does a neurologist do? What do they treat? These are common questions if you or a loved one has been referred to a neurologist.

Maybe you know an athlete who has seen a neurologist for a concussion or have heard of someone with seizures getting neurology care. While those are common conditions neurologists handle, there are many other reasons a person may see one.

Keep reading to learn when to see a neurologist, what to expect at your neurology appointment, and where to find a neurologist near you. This article will also answer the question: “What does a neurologist do?”

What is neurology?

Neurology is the branch of medicine that studies and treats disorders of the brain and nervous system. A neurologist is a doctor who diagnoses, treats, and manages these disorders.

Your nervous system is a complex system that regulates and coordinates your activities. Think of it as the command center of your body.

Starting from your brain, the nervous system controls your movements, thoughts, and automatic responses, as well as other body systems and processes, like breathing, digestion, and sexual development.

The nervous system is made up of:

  • The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord)
  • The peripheral nervous system (eyes, ears, skin, and other sensory receptors)
  • Somatic nervous system (voluntary movements)
  • Autonomic nervous system (movements you do without thinking)

What does a neurologist treat?

Neurologists treat conditions and injuries that affect the nervous systems of people of all ages, from babies to the elderly. Since these conditions involve the nervous system, they can sometimes impact the entire body.

The following are the most common conditions that neurologists diagnose and treat.

Head injuries

You may consult a neurologist to diagnose the severity of a head injury and recommend a treatment plan. Concussions are a common head injury that neurologists see, particularly in kids and adults who participate in sports.

Chronic headaches and migraines

Your primary care doctor might refer you to a neurologist if you have had ongoing headaches multiple times a week, especially if they don’t get better with over-the-counter pain relievers.

Migraine headaches are a painful type of headache that can cause sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, dizziness, and even visual disturbances. Neurologists are trained to help you identify and avoid your migraine triggers.

They can also prescribe medications for chronic migraines.

Epilepsy and seizures

A seizure starts in the brain and causes uncontrolled movements and sensations. They can even cause a person to lose consciousness. Seizures aren’t typical and can be dangerous. If you or your child or other loved one has a seizure, you should immediately see a specialist.

In many cases, your doctor will refer you to a neurologist for testing to rule out or diagnose a long-term seizure condition like epilepsy. They can also prescribe medications and treatments to help control your seizures.


A stroke occurs when you lose blood supply to your brain. If you think someone you’re with might be having a stroke, follow the F.A.S.T. test:

  • Face: Ask them to smile and see if one side of their face droops
  • Arms: Ask them to lift their arms and see if one arm begins to lower
  • Speech: Say a phrase for them to repeat and listen for strange or slurred speech
  • Time: If they can’t complete any of the above commands, call 9-1-1 immediately

After getting emergency care for a stroke, a neurologist will assess the damage to the brain. They can develop a treatment plan and prescribe medications to help you or your loved one recover.

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. It can cause numbness, weakness, tingling sensations, and vision changes.

While there’s no cure for MS, a neurologist can prescribe medications and therapies to help you manage the condition and its symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease that occurs when the brain can’t make enough dopamine to control body movement. It can cause tremors, stiffness, and a lack of coordination.

While there’s no cure for Parkinson’s, a neurologist can prescribe medications or recommend surgery to improve symptoms significantly.

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that can impact a person’s movement, muscle tone, reflexes, and posture. It’s caused by damage to a baby’s developing brain—usually before birth—with symptoms during infancy or the first few years of life.

Symptoms of Cerebral palsy typically don’t get worse with age, though some may become more or less apparent over time. There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but there are treatments that can help improve daily functioning.

When should I see a neurologist?

Suppose you have one or more symptoms (listed below) with no known cause. In that case, your doctor might refer you to a neurologist:

  • Seizure
  • Uncontrolled or severe headaches
  • Memory loss or confusion
  • Imbalance or dizziness
  • Trouble walking or speaking
  • Numbness, weakness, or pain (especially when it occurs on one side of the body or comes on suddenly)

Do I need a referral from my doctor?

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, your primary care doctor can make a referral for evaluation by a neurologist. If you don’t have a referral, you can call the neurology office directly to schedule an appointment.

Depending on your diagnosis, your neurologist will work with your primary care doctor on your treatment plan. They may also bring in other healthcare specialists as part of your care team.

What does a neurologist do at the first appointment?

At the first visit with your neurologist, they will ask about your health history, symptoms you’re experiencing and how long you’ve had them, and any treatments you’ve already tried.

They’ll also do a physical exam, which may include checking your:

  • Coordination, balance, and reflexes
  • Muscle strength
  • Mental health
  • Vision, hearing, and speech
  • Sensations in your hands and feet

Depending on your symptoms and what the neurologist finds during your physical exam, they may order diagnostic imaging tests, such as:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography (CAT or CT scan)
  • Transcranial doppler (TCD)
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Electromyogram (EMG)
  • Lumbar puncture

Based on your examination and testing results, your neurologist will put together a personalized care plan and discuss the next steps with you. Neurologists do not perform surgery, so they’ll refer you to a neurosurgeon if surgery is required.

Get expert neurology care at LMH

The experienced neurology team at Logansport Memorial Hospital is specially trained to diagnose, treat, and manage brain and nervous system disorders.

Our board-certified neurologist Dr. Chen Du has extensive expertise in treating various neurological issues and conditions. Dr. Du can also help manage chronic pain and address sleep disorders.

Call (574) 722-4921 to schedule your visit or request an appointment online.

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TOPICS: Neurology