What is a neurologist?

A neurologist is a trained doctor or physician who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves or muscles. A neurologist sees patients with a vast array of problems, but common conditions include stroke, epilepsy, migraine or dementia and common symptoms include weakness, numbness, tingling, disturbed vision, difficulty with speech, loss of consciousness, headache or memory loss. Recomendations for certain treatments or medications may be offered depending on patient preference and the condition. Discussing a neurological concern with your general practitioner or GP can be a great place to start before you consider obtaining a referral to a neurologist. If there is an urgent problem, a patient may consider presenting to an  emergency department.

What is dream enactment behaviour?

This is the acting out of one's dreams, and can include standing, leg or arm movements, laughing, speaking or yelling during sleep. This can lead to inadvertent injury to oneself or their bed partner. In some cases it can be associated with a disease of the brain, called REM sleep behaviour disorder, but in many cases patients remain well. 

Why is my thinking clouded?

Several difficulties of cognition can lead to so-called 'clouded' thinking, poor attention or difficulty thinking through in a thorough manner. These include problems of memory, concentration, judgement, knowledge or problem solving. These symptoms are not always due to a disease of the brain itself. A neurologist can help determine if there is a problem of the brain and may be able to treat certain conditions.

What causes memory loss?

Memory loss or amnesia can be caused by damage to an part of the brain known as the hippocampus or related areas. The causes are many from head injuries and dementia to medication and depression, or there may be no apparent cause. Your neurologist can be helpful in assessing the problem and guide you in treatment and management options.

Can dementia be treated?

There are many causes of dementia, and there are many wonderful ways to assist with and improve the life of a person with dementia and in some cases medication is available. Simply knowing what type of dementia a person has often leads to better management, independent decision making by the person affected and can help alleviate anxiety felt by a patient or their family.

 

Why do I have a tremor?

Many people who develop a tremor wonder if they might have Parkinson's disease. While this is one cause there are a number of other possibilities and not all tremors are permanent. It can be useful to record when your tremor first began and to notice what things make it better or worse.

Can migraines cause more than headaches?

Migraines are sometimes known as "migraine headaches" but this is somewhat misleading as they can cause a variety of problems including weakness or loss of vision and can even occur without a headache. Treatments are available to alleviate the pain and other symptoms of migraine, and these can be discussed with your GP or neurologist.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative condition which gradually worsens over time. There are many symptoms of Parkinson's disease such as tremor, stiffness, slowness in walking, difficulty with balance, constipation, changes in speech and smell. Many medical conditions can mimic these symptoms, so if you are concerned please discuss with your GP or neurologist.

Can I drive with epilepsy?

There are set standards in Australia around the safety of driving in patients with a history of loss of consciousness, seizure or epilepsy. Your neurologist can help determine how these apply. The standards can be accessed at http://www.austroads.com.au/drivers-vehicles/assessing-fitness-to-drive

What are the symptoms of stroke?

A stroke is due to either a lack of blood flow to a particular area of the brain or a bleed within the brain itself, causing different symptoms depending on which part of the brain is affected. The name derives from being "struck down" suddenly. Stroke is an emergency situation just like a heart attack, and sometimes direct blood clot removing treatment can be given if early enough, so please seek urgent attention if you suspect a stroke.

What is multiple sclerosis or MS?

MS is a disease of the brain or spinal cord where multiple areas of inflammation occur, some of which can cause weakness, loss of sensation, troubles with vision and other symptoms. These areas sometimes resolve on their own but can cause scarring and permanent damage, however we now have effective treatment available to help prevent MS changes.

How can I help?

The following organisations are dedicated to the treatment and cure of neurological diseases and your support would be greatly appreciated:

How can I advocate for my friend or relative with dementia?

Advocacy begins with remembering that people with dementia are still people with choices, and they deserve a respect of their decision making. Many capacities are maintained until late in the condition, so decisions can often initially remain with the person affected. It may be useful to complete formal documents such as Advanced Directives and nomination of a Medical or Financial Power of Attorney.

The following web sites are helpful for patients, their families and carers:

What tests am I likely to have?

Not every patient will require them, but common tests in neurology include blood tests, CT or MRI scans, nerve conduction tests (electrical tests of nerves in the limbs) and EEG (electroencephalogram or brain wave test). Sometimes a lumbar puncture or spinal tap will be advised. We aim to recommend only those tests which are thought necessary to provide the best patient care, and available options should be discussed with your neurologist.

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