Much of our actions, thoughts, reactions and pain can be traced back to a complicated physical makeup in our body called the nervous system. This system can be hard to understand but is important to care for, as it is the hub of our physical and mental activity. The first of two components of the system, the central nervous system, consists of the brain, spinal cord and nerves. The second – the peripheral nervous system – consists of sensory neurons, ganglia and nerves that connect to one another and back to the central nervous system. 

This interconnected web of nerves and cells is studied by neurologists, who can sometimes explain the inexplicable. You may be wondering if you’re experiencing a pain, numbness, vision issues, memory issues or other ailments, who to go to. Sometimes the best route to go is a neurologist! Here’s a list of 10 instances when you may need to see a neurologist!

1)   Headaches – Headaches are a common experience for many people, but more severe headaches should be further investigated. If the headache is continuous, comes on suddenly, starts early in the morning, or causes vomiting, you should talk to your doctor. Your primary care physician may refer you to a neurologist.

2)   Chronic pain – Chronic pain lasts for several months or even years and can be a result of illness or injury. When it lasts longer than a normal recovery time or is unmanageable, you may need to see a neurologist. Weakness, numbness, or problems with bladder or bowel control can also be indicators of a bigger problem.

3)   Dizziness – Dizziness can be caused by numerous factors, but dizziness caused by vertigo or disequilibrium can be treated by a neurologist. Your primary care doctor can help you decide if your situation is severe enough to see a neurologist.

4)   Numbness or tingling – As stated in a previous point, numbness or tingling can be indicative or a nerve issue. If it is continuous, comes on suddenly, or only happens on one side of the body, speak to a doctor. Symptoms like these can be signs of a stroke, so you may need to get help immediately. 

5)   Weakness – Muscle weakness, which is different from tiredness or muscle aches, is where it takes extra effort to move your limbs or make your muscles work. It can be caused by a more serious condition and deserves to be looked at by a physician.

6)   Movement issues – If you experience clumsiness, unintentional jerking, or difficulty walking, you may have symptoms of a problem in the nervous system. If these problems interrupt daily life, you should speak to a neurologist.

7)   Seizures – Whether unnoticeable or very extreme, symptoms of seizures are serious. Ranging from staring to loss of consciousness, jerking movements, breathing problems or confusion, seizures can exhibit a number of causes. If you cannot attribute your seizures to low blood sugar or an addictive substance withdrawal, you may need to see a neurologist.

8)   Vision problems – If a difficulty seeing is sudden and happens in both eyes, you should consult an eye doctor. They will be able to tell if you need to see a specialist.

9)   Memory problems – Disorders or problems in the brain, spine and nerves can cause problems speaking, memory loss, changes in personality or confusion. Speak to a primary care physician to find out if a neurologist should examine you.

10)Sleep problems – Common sleep problems, such as sleep apnea, nightmares, or anxiety, are usually treated by a sleep specialist; however, some are signs of a neurological disorder. Narcolepsy, a chronic, genetic disorder, is one example with no known cause that affects the body’s central nervous system. In this case, you would need to see a neurologist.

Many of these cases could be a sign of an issue that is not neurological. By speaking with your primary care doctor, you can find out whether you should see a neurologist. If your symptoms are severe enough, such as stroke symptoms, or you aren’t confident in the determination of a primary care doctor, you may choose to make an appointment with a neurologist.

UAB Medical West recently welcomed two neurologists to the UAB Medical West family – Dr. Benjamin Jones and Dr. Luke Smelser. For more information, please visit www.medicalwesthospital.orgor call (205) 996-WEST.