Neurologists are medical professionals who specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the nervous system. A general practice doctor might make a referral to a neurologist if they believe that an individual shows signs of a neurological problem. Neurological issues encompass a broad range of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetic neuropathy, headache, and nerve damage.
The nervous system has two parts:
- the central nervous system (CNS), which refers to the brain and spinal cord
- the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which includes all of the nerves outside of the CNS
Due to the complex nature of the nervous system, many neurologists focus on treating certain populations of people or people with specific neurological diseases.
After completing their residency training, many neurologists spend a year or more in a fellowship program where they gain experience in their subspecialty.
Examples of subspecialties within the field of neurology include:
- pediatric or child neurology
- neurodevelopmental disabilities
- neuromuscular medicine
- hospice and palliative care neurology
- pain medicine
- headache medicine
- sleep medicine
- vascular neurology
- autonomic disorders
- brain injury medicine
- neurocritical care
What conditions do they treat?
Neurologists treat neurological conditions, which are problems that affect the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. These conditions include:
- headaches and migraines
- brain tumors
- brain aneurysms
- peripheral neuropathy
- sleep disorders
- neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease
- neuromuscular diseases, such as myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis (MS), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- infections of the nervous system, such as encephalitis, meningitis, and HIV
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Neurologists perform a range of different tests and procedures to diagnose and treat neurological conditions.
Some of these procedures include:
A neurologist can use a lumbar puncture to collect a sample of spinal fluid. They may use this procedure to help diagnose the following conditions:
- autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS)
- bleeding in the brain
Neurologists can also use a lumbar puncture to treat conditions that affect the spinal cord. They can inject anesthetics, antibiotics, or cancer treatments using a lumbar puncture needle.