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Spine and Neuro


What Is a Neurologist and when Should you See One?  

by Dr. Russell Shah, MD | October 26, 2016

Neck Pain

What Is a Neurologist?

A neurologist is a specialist who treats diseases in the spinal cord (the central nervous system) and brain, peripheral nerves (nerves connecting the spine & brain to the organs, like the lungs or liver), and muscles.

Neurological diseases and issues can include TBI (Traumatic Brain Injuries), stroke, headaches, epilepsy, movement disorders, such as tremor or Parkinson’s disease; and quite a few others.

The most common symptoms of neurological disease are discussed below.

Top 11 reasons you may want to see a neurologist:

  1. Headaches – Headaches are something we all can relate to. The discomfort from a headache can make you less productive, cranky, tired and can turn any activity no matter how enjoyable into a chore. They can be caused by many conditions from a sinus infection to a loud noises. Symptoms of more serious headaches, including migraines, may be vomiting, a headache that becomes more severe or is continuous, a headache that comes on suddenly or pain that is worsened by strain or stress, a headache that starts early in the morning, changes in vision, or even seizures. If your headache symptoms are severe enough, your primary care doctor may refer you to a neurologist.
  2. Dizziness – Dizziness can come in different forms. Neurologists treat dizziness that is a symptom of disequilibrium or vertigo. Disequilibrium is difficulty keeping your balance and Vertigo makes you feel as if you or the things around you are spinning. Your primary care doctor can help you decide if your dizziness is severe enough to require a neurologist.
  3. Numbness or tingling – Numbness or tingling can happen for many different reasons, some as simple as sitting in a way that cuts off your blood circulation or having not eaten enough recently. However, if this numbness continues, comes on suddenly, or only happens on one side of the body, you may need to see a neurologist. Numbness or tingling symptoms like those described can also be signs of a stroke, if so, you need to get help immediately. While your primary care doctor can help you evaluate your symptoms, if you think you are having a stroke, get immediate medical help by calling 911.
  4. Sleep problems – While we know many obvious causes of sleep problems, going to bed too late, having a condition like anxiety or sleep apnea, or nightmares, some sleep problems are neurological disorders. An example of this is narcolepsy, which is a chronic, genetic disorder with no known cause that affects the body’s central nervous system.
  5. Weakness – Feelings of weakness that you should see a doctor for are different than tiredness or muscle aches after lifting too many weights or going on a long hike. Muscle weakness where you feel like it takes extra effort to move your arms and legs or make your muscles work is a symptom you should consult your doctor about. It could be caused by something more serious or a disease of your nervous system, such as stroke.
  6. Movement problems – Problems moving, like difficulty walking, tremors, being clumsy, unintentional jerks or movements, can be symptoms of a problem in your nervous system. You may want to see a neurologist if these movement problems interrupt your daily life, though something like a tremor can be a side effect of anxiety or a medication. If your tremors also affect your daily activities, you may want to see a neurologist.
  7. Seizures – Seizures range from almost unnoticeable or very extreme. Symptoms of seizures can range from starting to loose consciousness, breathing problems, jerking movements of the arms and legs, confusion, or loss of consciousness. While some seizures could be caused by things like low blood sugar, seizures that seem sudden or without any obvious cause are symptoms you should see your doctor about. Your primary care doctor can help you determine how serious your seizure is and if you should see a neurologist.
  8. Vision problems – Difficulty seeing can be caused by aging or by nervous system issues. If your vision problems come on suddenly and it happens in both eyes, you may want to have your vision examined. Either an eye doctor or your primary care doctor can advise you on whether you should see a neurologist about your vision problem.
  9. Chronic pain – Chronic pain is pain that lasts for months or even years. This pain can be the result of illness or injury, but when it lasts longer than the usual recovery time, it can become a symptom of a different problem. When this pain is not something your primary care physician can help you manage, you may choose to see a neurologist, especially if you have other symptoms along with the pain like numbness, weakness, or problems with bowel or bladder control.
  10. Memory problems or confusion – Problems speaking, extreme problems with memory, changes in personality, or confusion are all symptoms that could be caused by disorders or problems in the spine, brain, or nerves. Some of the symptoms can be due to learning disabilities or they may be caused by a disease like Alzheimer’s. Your primary care doctor can help you examine your symptoms and decide if you need to see a neurologist.
  11. Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI)   is a nondegenerative, noncongenital insult (injury) to the brain from an external mechanical force, possibly leading to permanent or temporary impairment of cognitive, physical, and psychosocial functions, with an associated diminished or altered state of consciousness. Such injuries are very serious and often require a neurologist.

Your primary care doctor is your best resource in helping you decide if you should see a neurologist as many of these symptoms could be part of another disorder that is not neurological in nature. However, if your symptoms are severe enough (like sympoms of a stroke) or you're not confidant in your primary doctor’s recommendations, you may choose to make an appointment with a neurologist on your own.

A philosophy of diagnostic excellence & commitment to your best interests.

Dr. Russell J. Shah’s commitment to objectivity as a diagnostician and experienced EMG neurologist extends to all aspects of his care, including the treatments he recommends. You’ll be informed about your options, which will be based on a highly skilled interpretation of your EMG results.

Fellowship-trained in EMG testing and interpretation, Dr. Shah has a more thorough understanding of the subtleties of EMG testing and interpretation than is common. He has examined hundreds of thousands of nerves and helped thousands of people with nerve pain get an accurate diagnosis and effective, appropriate care.