Top 5 reasons to see a neurologist

Dr. Benjamin talking to woman patient

Neurologists are doctors of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves and muscles. You are most likely to see a neurologist after being referred from your primary care provider (PCP) or after having been in the emergency room (ER) for one of the following conditions:

1. Stroke

"In the last two months, 80 percent of the patients I treated in the hospital were for stroke," said Ramsis Benjamin, MD, a neurologist with Willamette Health Partners. According to Dr. Benjamin, you have a hundred billion neurons in your brain and you lose 1.2 million brain cells every hour you postpone getting necessary treatment. “If you experience stroke symptoms: slurred speech, blurry vision, numbness, call 911 immediately and get to the ER,” said Dr. Benjamin. “Treatment works best within three hours of onset.”

2. Dementia

According to Dr. Benjamin, it is a natural process for memory loss to begin around age 40. By age 65, 5 percent of the population has dementia and by age 85, 50 percent. “Dementia encompasses short-term memory loss, behavior and speech changes,” he said. “If your loved one is hoarding, acting funny, obsessing about neighbors, or not recognizing family members, it is time to seek help.”

3. Migraines

If your pain starts on one side, throbs and pulsates and delivers severe pressure, along with nausea, light sensitivity, “seeing stars,” and muscle tension, you may have a migraine disorder.

4. Seizures

According to Dr. Benjamin, 3 percent of the population experiences seizures, most frequently a byproduct of a stroke leaving scar tissue on the brain. Seizures can also be caused by brain tumors and infections such as meningitis. Generalized epilepsy is present in 1 percent of the population.

5. Nerve pain

More than 100 different types of peripheral nerve injuries (neuropathy) have been identified. Neuropathy can be characterized by a burning sensation or stabbing pain, or quite the opposite—a numb feeling or no feeling at all. More than 60 percent of people with diabetes suffer from neuropathy, said Dr. Benjamin. Carpel tunnel syndrome is another common nerve entrapment disorder.

Neurologists work to understand how structures of the brain impact certain functions. They use electrodes in muscles, a needle in the spine, and nerve studies to diagnose conditions. Most conditions can be treated by medication.

If you are experiencing any of these conditions, please consult your PCP, or with stroke, call 911.

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