Specializing in the complex central and peripheral nervous system, a neurologist is a highly trained physician focused on diseases, conditions, and injuries of the brain, nerves, spinal cord and surrounding areas. While most people will never have to visit this kind of specialized physician in their lifetime, it helps to know when they are required--and some of the symptoms that might prompt you to ask your primary care physician for a referral.
Chronic, Severe, or Uncharacteristic Pain
Acute pain is pain which comes on suddenly and goes away when the underlying cause has been treated. It lasts less than six months. Chronic pain, on the other hand, can be caused by any one of several factors, from injury to disease, and can go on for months or even years. Sometimes, pain itself is a symptom without a known cause. Whether your pain is not able to be controlled by your primary care doctor, or it is due to nerve damage or disease like neuropathy or neuralgia, a neurologist or nerve pain center may be better equipped to handle your needs.
Persistent or Serious Headaches
At some point, headaches are something everyone has to deal with. Whether from tension, stress, the common cold, or something like a sinus infection, headaches are a part of life. But when recurring or severe headaches disrupt the quality of our lives or keep up from living life to the fullest, it may be time to seek out a neurologist. Migraines, for example, can be a continuous and painful type of headache that include sensitivity to light, nausea, and even vision changes.
Numbness, Tingling, and Weakness
Symptoms like muscle weakness, tingling, and numbness in your extremities can be caused by any number of reasons. However, if these signs appear suddenly, only happen on one side of the body, or do not go away over an extended period of time, they could very well point to something more serious, and should be evaluated by a physician or specialist. Keep in mind that symptoms like numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness--especially on one side of the body--can often be the warning signs of a stroke. If you suspect a stroke, remember that seconds matter, and you should get to an emergency room as soon as possible.
Seizure activity ranges from the almost unnoticeable to the extreme. Symptoms can include loss of consciousness, confusion, staring, jerking motions, twitching, muscle spasms, loss of bladder control, breathing difficulties, confusion, altered states of consciousness, and teeth gnashing. If you suffer from epilepsy or another seizure disorder, a neurologist can help you get convulsions under control with medications and other therapies.