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What is Neurology?

Neurology is that part of medicine that deals with the structural and functional disorders of the central nervous system, the brain and the spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, the nerve fibers that encompass our body’s sensory, movement and vegetative functions.  Neurology also deals with muscle disorders since they are also part of our movement functions.

When should I consult a neurologist?

People mostly consult a neurologist with complaints of constant or recurring pain such as headaches and spine complaints involving mainly the neck and lower back.  Additional complaints are equilibrium disorders, hand tremors, gait difficulties, muscle weakness, muscle atrophy, numbness, loss of sensation, trembling, dizziness, sight problems, unconsciousness, memory disorders and sleeping disorders.

Some psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety as well as mood disorders and mental decline may have been caused by a neurological problem justifying a neurological examination.

What do I need to do to prepare for the examination?

All that is required is that you bring all your earlier laboratory results and medical reports.

What happens during a neurological examination?
At the start, your neurologist will discuss with you your actual complaints, look over your previous records and take down your medical history.    

The neurologist will then examine you.  He will ask a few easy questions and have you perform a few tests to evaluate your mental state, your speech and coordination abilities, your sight and other sensory functions as well as the rhythm, speed, coordination and equilibrium of your gait and check your reflexes.  If the test results show that your complaints originate in the nervous system, then the next step will be to localize the cause and set up the differential diagnosis.

What diagnostic imaging is required to complete the neurological examination?

The oldest diagnostic imaging, the x-ray, is still being used to date for the quick determination of the condition of the spine; however, several state-of-the-art methods are now available that provide images of greater detail.  For example, in the case of a brain catastrophe, brain hemorrhage or possible stroke, the CT scan may help determine whether the symptoms are caused by the lack of oxygen due to arterial occlusion or by brain hemorrhage and the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is even more informative providing higher resolution images.  Its later model, the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), allows the examination of certain nervous system areas while it is under operation.

Several other methods are available for examining the nervous system’s blood vessels: the Doppler ultrasonography, the magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) and electrophysiological examinations such as the EEG (electroencephalography) for examining the brain, the ENG (electronystagmogram) for examining the surrounding nerves and the EMG (electromyography) for examining the electric responses of the muscles.  Since several neurological diseases are genetic in origin, a genetic test should definitely be part of the diagnostic pallet.  

What is exactly the difference between neurology and psychiatry?

Both deal with disorders of the central nervous system.  Simplified: we might say that the neurologist deals with disorders that are also accompanied by physical symptoms while psychiatry deals with psychological problems that do not cause physical symptoms.  At the same time, however, the two areas cannot be completely separated since many nervous system disorders are often followed by psychological problems.  For instance, behavioral problems or mood changes, depression and neuroses may often accompany brain hemorrhage, Alzheimer’s disease or brain tumors.