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Neurologists: When and Why to See One

Neurologists are highly trained, specialized doctors. They may see patients that have other health conditions beside neurological problems. In most situations a neurologist works as part of the treatment team and typically the patient is referred to the neurologist from a general practice physician or another specialist. Some may also be neurosurgeons, but the surgical component is another specialization area that takes additional training to be certified. These two specialists often work very closely with the family doctor providing ongoing care after the neurosurgeon has performed the procedure. In cases of chronic diseases or pain the neurology specialist may take the lead in patient care with consultation and support by the other professionals involved.

Most neurologists work in clinical settings as well as in hospitals and specialized types of facilities. In most cases a referral from a general physician is required before you can access these specialists, and the waiting time can be fairly long depending on the area in which you are located and the number of these specialists available. Typically patients are seen on a priority basis, ensuring that emergency treatment and serious conditions are immediately assessed and handled.

To become a doctor that specializes in treatment of the nervous system is a long and very difficult training. Like all physicians these healthcare professionals start with a four year Bachelor degree or equivalent undergraduate degree. This is often in the sciences but can be in virtually any educational field. After that the individual completes a four year medical sciences degree followed by a three or four year internship specifically within the field of neurology. These interns will also treat patients during this time and become familiar with working on treatment teams.

With all their specialized training neurologists may be called on to assist doctors in determining a wide range of health problems, diseases and even in trauma and critical conditions. Generally a neurologist treats all types of conditions that affect the nervous system including those that are inherited, congenital or present at birth and those that may be a result of toxins, disease or aging. Often this type of diagnosis includes highly specialized testing. Some of the common testing tools used by these types of professionals include CAT (computed axial tomography) scans, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), EEG (electroencephalography) or EMG-NCV (electromyography-nerve conduction velocity) testing.

Different conditions that may require a consultation or treatment under the care of a neurologist include back injury and pain, stroke, cerebral palsy in older children or adults, epilepsy, dementia, Alzheimer's, chronic headaches, migraines, sciatica, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and some types of infectious diseases that affect the nervous system. There are also various clinical neurologists that work in assessment of overall neurological functioning of patients with developmental delays and disorders. When there is a mental health diagnosis that has a neurological basis or impact often the therapist or psychologist will work together with the medical specialist to ensure a holistic approach to treating the condition. These specialists can also be instrumental in rehabilitation and occupational therapy types of treatment programs, especially when damage to the nervous tissue, brain, spinal cord or associated muscle or tissue is present.

The field of neurology is highly specialized and many neurologists focus in on one particular form of neurological disorder. A neurologist may also be a researcher or teach at a medical school or university in addition to working directly with patients. Since many conditions have a neurological component these highly skilled and specialized medical experts are an integral part of many different patient treatment teams and plans.

About the author: Sandy Winslow is a writer on subjects relating to nervous system health. Neurologists are a specialized type of physician that treats a wide range of neurological conditions.


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