If you are experiencing muscle weakness, dizziness, seizures, memory loss or severe nerve pain, your GP may refer you to a neurologist for further investigation and treatment.
While neurologists do not perform surgery, they can help their patients to diagnose and manage a range of neurological conditions including Parkinson’s, MS, seizures, and strokes.
What is a neurologist?
Neurologists specialise in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of nervous system conditions. This includes the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Patients with a neurological condition often have difficulty with movement or speech. Many also experience nerve pain. A neurological condition can develop after an injury or due to disease.
After becoming a doctor, neurologists complete at least 6 further years of specialised training. Most neurologists in Australia are fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. They are highly specialised medical professionals and treat a variety of conditions.
What are the most common conditions treated by neurologists?
- Parkinson’s Disease Patients with Parkinson’s disease experience slow movement, tremor, balance problems and rigid movement. This occurs due to a loss of brain cells that produce dopamine- a brain chemical that allows for smooth and coordinated body movement. Most people with Parkinson’s disease are over the age of 60. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, a neurologist helps their patient to manage the disease.
- Neuropathic Pain Neuropathic pain, commonly referred to as nerve pain, is common after significant injury or disease. The pain is often sharp, shooting or burning in nature, and typically cannot be managed by common pain medication and treatment. Some patients experience neuropathic pain during diabetes or after a stroke. A neurologist is trained to help patients with this condition to manage their pain.
- Migraines Migraines significantly impact daily functioning. Often lasting hours or days, migraines can leave patients bedbound, unable to cope with bright light, strong scents or loud noises. Many migraine patients do not receive appropriate treatment and typical pain medication is ineffective. A neurologist can help migraine sufferers to identify migraine triggers and prescribe appropriate medication to use when an episode starts.
- Seizures Produced by disturbances in the brain, seizures cause patients to lose consciousness and experience uncontrolled convulsions. A neurologist will identify the cause of their patient’s seizures. For example, epilepsy is a long-term condition that causes seizures. After visiting a neurologist, you will have a better understanding of the cause and best treatment for seizures.
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS) MS is a condition where protective nerve coverings are attacked by the immune system. Common symptoms include numbness, tingling, loss of movement or speech, and changes in vision. Often, patients experience deterioration over time. A neurologist plays an important role in the diagnosis of MS and can prescribe medications to slow or control the progression of the disease.
- Spinal Cord or Brain Injury Brain or spinal cord injuries occur in a range of settings and affect people of all ages. Car accidents, violence, sporting incidents and falls are all instances where these injuries can occur.
- Memory Loss Neurologists also treat memory loss and memory deterioration disorders including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. While some forgetfulness is typical of old age, significant memory loss can impact functioning and cause distress. A neurologist will determine your reason for memory loss and provide treatment for slowing disease.
- Stroke A stroke is caused by either a blocked artery or a leaking or burst blood vessel. According to the Brain Foundation, 56,000 Australians have a stroke each year- this is over 100 people every day. The warning signs of an oncoming stroke include:
Brain injuries can cause symptoms including headaches or seizures, as well as long term changes to behaviour, personality or memory. Spinal injuries can cause paralysis, numbness or weakness. A neurologist is specialised to treat brain and spinal cord injuries and will determine the most appropriate management and treatment options.
- FACE: One side of the face droops.
- ARMS: Weakness in the arms.
- SPEECH: Difficulty with speech.
- TIME: Call 000 and request an ambulance
How can I visit a neurologist?
Neurologists treat a range of conditions. They typically practice in specialist centres for specific conditions such as a stroke centre or treatment centre for Parkinson’s, or in private practice. To get a referral letter, visit your GP. Your GP will determine whether a neurologist can assist in the diagnosis or treatment of your condition.
Once you receive your medical referral letter to a neurologist, upload your letter to Smart Referral and decide which specialist is right for you.