A neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the nervous system. The nervous system is made of two parts: the central and peripheral nervous system. It includes the brain and spinal cord.
Illnesses, disorders, and injuries that involve the nervous system often require a neurologist’s management and treatment.
There are many subspecialties. Some examples of subspecialties include:
- headache medicine
- neuromuscular medicine
- neurocritical care
- geriatric neurology
- autonomic disorders
- vascular (stroke care)
- child neurology
- intervention neuroradiology
During your first appointment with a neurologist, they will likely perform a physical exam and a neurological exam. A neurological exam will test muscle strength, reflexes, and coordination. Since different disorders can have similar symptoms, your neurologist may need more testing to make a diagnosis.
Neurologists may recommend a variety of procedures to help diagnose or treat a condition. These procedures may include:
Your neurologist may use a lumbar puncture to test your spinal fluid. They may recommend the procedure if they believe your symptoms are caused by a problem in your nervous system that can be detected in your spinal fluid. The procedure involves inserting a needle into the spine after numbing it and taking a sample of spinal fluid.
This procedure can help your neurologist diagnose myasthenia gravis. In this test, your doctor injects you with a medicine called Tensilon. Then they observe how it affects your muscle movements.
With electrodes applied to your scalp, an EEG measures electrical activity in the brain.
Neurologists may use other types of tests, as well. Although they may not perform the test, they may order it, review it, and interpret the results.
To make a diagnosis, a neurologist may use imaging tests such as:
- computed tomography, or CT scan
- magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI scan
- positron emission tomography, or PET scan