A neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating illnesses and diseases that affect the nervous system. Your nervous system includes elements such as the brain, nerves, and the spinal cord. It controls everything you feel, think, and do - from moving your limbs to the regular beating of your heart.
Conditions that affect the nervous system include problems with coordination, muscle weakness, dizziness, confusion, and other changes in sensation. People who are experiencing problems with their senses, such as vision, touch, or smell, may also need to visit a neurologist. Because this system is so complex, there are many conditions and sub-conditions that a neurologist can diagnose and treat.
If you have never visited a neurologist before, you might not be sure what to expect. At Olean Medical Group, we want to make sure that you feel prepared. Here is what you can expect when you visit the neurologist for the first time.
To get the most out of your appointment with the neurologist, it helps to prepare in advance. Depending on your specific situation, we might have specific instructions; however, we do recommend doing all or some of the following:
- Make a List: It can be difficult to remember everything you want to discuss in the moment. Start keeping a list before your appointment of the important issues that you want to discuss with your neurologist. This includes any changes in your overall health, as well as any new or changing symptoms.
- Keep a Log: If your neurologist is well-informed, they can provide the most appropriate treatment. Before your appointment, start keeping a symptom diary to bring with you. Record events, including day and time they occurred, how long each event lasted, triggers, severity, symptoms you noticed, and any action you might have taken to end the event. This can be especially useful if you have a condition in which symptoms are not constant, such as sleep apnea, headaches, epilepsy, or Parkinson’s disease.
- Assemble Records: Before your appointment, gather records so your neurologist has a complete picture of your overall health history. Include copies of test results, including any images or lab work ordered by other healthcare providers,
- Gather Information: To provide a complete picture, make a list of your current prescription or over-the-counter medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements you might take. You should also write a list of any known allergies you have.
If you come to your appointment prepared with as much information as possible, it allows your neurologist to have a complete picture as they search for possible answers.
During your first appointment with your neurologist, they will likely perform a physical exam and a neurological exam to get a complete picture. A neurological exam will test your coordination, muscle strength, and reflex. This helps your neurologist get an idea of your physical health and neurological status before gathering more information. Your neurologist will also review any test results and other documentation you bring to get an idea of where to begin.
Since different disorders can have similar symptoms, it may be necessary to order additional tests to make a confident diagnosis. We may recommend a combination of procedures to help identify a condition and make a treatment plan. Most typical neurological procedures include:
- Electromyography (EMG): An EMG measures electrical activity between your brain or spinal cord to a peripheral nerve in your arms or legs. This type of test helps diagnose spinal cord disease or general muscle and nerve dysfunction. During the EMG, small electrodes will be inserted into your muscles to help measure activity during movement and rest.
- Nerve Conduction Velocity Test (NCV): An NCV assesses how well your nerves send the necessary signals to control a given muscle. This is often performed in conjunction with an EMG; small pulses are sent from electrodes into your muscles to stimulate your nerves, while another set of electrodes measures the results.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG): An EEG measures electrical activity in your brain. It uses small electrodes around your scalp and measures brain signals as it reacts to small changes in your environment. This helps your neurologist identify conditions of the brain such as inflammation, tumors, and injuries; it can also help diagnose seizures and psychiatric disorders.
- Tensilon Test: During this type of test, your neurologist will inject you with a medicine called Tensilon. Then they will observe how it affects your muscle movements.
- Lumbar Puncture: If your neurologist believes that your symptoms are caused by a problem with your nervous system, your spinal fluid can provide answers. The lumbar procedure involves numbing the spine, then inserting a needle and taking a sample of spinal fluid.
- Other Tests: There are other tests that might apply to your situation, including sleep studies, imaging tests, and angiography. Your neurologist will order those tests as recommended.
If you have an appointment with your neurologist coming up, knowing what to expect can help you feel less nervous. Your neurologist might work with your primary care physician or other members of your healthcare team to diagnose and treat any symptoms or conditions you might have. Your appointment is the first step to getting answers and working toward a comprehensive care plan.
If you are located in the Olean, NY area, Olean Medical Group is here to help with any neurological questions you might have. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment!