What Is a Neurologist?
A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in disorders relating to the central and peripheral nervous system. This means any disease or condition involving the brain, spinal cord, or nervous system. The peripheral nervous system includes all the sensory nerves including those nerves linking the brain to a person’s sight and hearing, and their senses of smell, taste and touch. The field of neurology, therefore, covers a vast number of conditions and has overlaps with many other medical disciplines.
A neurologist is a medical nerve doctor and does not perform surgery, but will work closely with neurosurgeons for those patients whose conditions can benefit from surgery. Surgery involving the brain and spinal cord is very precise and can carry risks, which will always be explained to the patient and their family. Neurosurgeons have extensive specialized training and an array of modern surgical tools, technology and techniques to assist them and ensure that surgery is safe and effective.
A pediatric neurologist is an expert in child neurology: treating children with neurological conditions and in diseases specifically affecting children. Treatments for children who are unwell often differ significantly from adult’s treatments, so child neurology is very specialized. Child neurologists look after children with a wide range of conditions, including epilepsy, problematic headaches, and developmental and behavioural problems.
The diversity of neurological conditions mean that nerve doctors are often highly specialized, focusing on specific conditions like stroke or epilepsy. Neurologists may work in a hospital on specialized wards, like stroke units or neurology departments, and will also have outpatient clinics for patients who don’t need to be in a hospital or to follow up their patients who have left the hospital.
What Does a Neurologist Do?
Neurologists diagnose and treat neurological disorders.
Neurological disorders are problems that affect the brain, spinal cord and nerves. They can be extremely serious and even life-threatening and include stroke, motor neurone disease, and dementia. Problems affecting the brain can have profound consequences, causing problems with thought processes and a person’s comprehension, speech, mobility, coordination, and control of bodily functions.
Some neurological conditions can be improved with surgery, and surgery to the brain and nervous system is performed by a neurosurgeon. Because neurological conditions can be so severe and can affect so many different systems, neurologists work within a diverse multi-disciplinary team, including nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and dieticians. They will also liaise carefully with their patients’ general family doctors to help ensure that people with neurological conditions can live normal, healthy lives. Neurologists often have links to psychiatric services and clinical psychiatrists as disorders affecting the brain can manifest in an overlap with mental health conditions.
Neurologists use a number of tools and investigations to diagnose and guide treatment for conditions affecting the nervous system, and they may refer their patients for computed tomography (CT or CAT scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound scans to closely assess the body for areas of concern. Neurology is a field of medicine and surgery at the cutting edge of technological advancements, and neurologists have a duty to ensure that their practice is always up-to-date and based on the best available scientific evidence.