Last updated date: 30-Jan-2023
Originally Written in English
The body’s nervous system plays a significant role in almost all aspects of overall health and well-being. It regulates different activities, such as how a person thinks, functions, and move. However, the nervous system is also susceptible to a wide range of conditions that can interfere with these functions.
Neurology is thus concerned with the body's nervous system, including the functions, activities, and related disorders. It also involves a range of diagnostic and treatment procedures to help treat and manage acute and chronic conditions.
Definition of Neurology
Neurology is a medical specialty that focuses on studying and treating disorders affecting the nervous system. A nervous system is a complex group of nerves and cells (neurons). They are responsible for transmitting signals from one part of the body to another. In other words, it acts as an electrical wiring system of the body.
The nervous system consists of two major parts; the central and peripheral nervous systems. The central nervous system includes the brain, nerves, and spinal cord. On the other hand, the peripheral nervous system includes the somatic and autonomic nervous systems.
Therefore, neurology also involves diagnosing and treating a wide range of diseases of the peripheral and central nervous systems. It can include the associated blood vessels, tissues, and their coverings.
Neurologists are medical experts who specialize in this field. They help diagnose, treat, and manage a wide range of neurological disorders and related problems that affect the nervous system.
Since the nervous system is diverse and complex, neurology is further categorized into different subspecialties. Besides, the neurologists usually specialize in distinct areas, including;
- Autonomic disorders
- Child neurology
- Geriatric neurology
- Headache medicine
- Intervention neuroradiology
- Neurocritical care
- Neuromuscular medicine
- Vascular or stroke care
Types of Neurological Conditions
Neurological conditions usually affect the spinal cord, brain, and nerves. The common conditions that neurologists often diagnose and treat include;
- Brain aneurysms
- Brain tumors
- Headaches or migraines
- Infections of the nervous system, including meningitis, HIV, and encephalitis
- Neurodegenerative conditions including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
- Neuromuscular conditions, including multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and myasthenia gravis
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Sleep disorders
Common Causes of Neurological Conditions
Neurological disorders can arise and cause malfunctions of the nervous system, including the brain and spine. The underlying causes are usually diverse and can vary depending on the condition.
Both the brain and the spinal cord are shielded by various membranes susceptible to extreme pressure and force. On the other hand, the peripheral nerves situated deep beneath the skin are also prone to damage.
Therefore, neurological disorders can develop and interfere with the whole neurological path or neurons. Also, any slight disturbance of the structural path of the neurons can cause a severe malfunction.
Due to these, neurological conditions can result from various causes, such as;
- Environmental impacts
- Lifestyle associated factors
- Nutritional related factors
- Physical injuries
To determine the actual disease and cause, neurologists often conduct a number of tests. The first step commonly involves performing a neurological and physical exam. A physical exam helps determine the associated signs or symptoms and analyze the medical history of the patient. The neurological exam is also conducted to test the strength of the muscle, coordination, and reflexes.
To further analyze the condition and differentiate similar symptoms, neurologists can recommend additional tests and neurology procedures, including;
Lumbar Puncture (spinal tap)
A lumbar puncture involves collecting fluids within the spinal cord and the brain for diagnosis and examination purposes. It's done by inserting a needle into the spinal canal within the lumbar regions to remove the cerebrospinal fluid.
Lumbar puncture aims at determining the underlying cause of the inflammation, infections, cancer or tumors, and bleeding within the brain or spine area. It also helps diagnose certain conditions or disease such as;
- Autoimmune conditions, including multiple sclerosis
- Bleeding within the brain
Tensilon test is a procedure to diagnose myasthenia gravis. It involves injecting the patient with a drug known as tensilon and observing how it influences the muscle movement.
Tensilon hinders the activity of acetylcholinesterase (a crucial neurotransmitter) hence delaying muscle stimulation. If there is an increase in muscle strength during the procedure, it indicates myasthenia gravis or related conditions.
Neurologists often use this technique to assess and record the muscle’s electric activities. It uses an electromyogram to measure the speed and how well the nerves can transmit electrical signals.
After the procedure, the neurologist uses measurement results of the muscles and nerves' electrical activity to analyze certain disorders. It includes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and muscular dystrophy.
EEG is used to measure and record the brain’s electric activity using electroencephalograms (EEG). The brain neurons transmit signals to other neurons via the electric impulses as EEG picks up these signals. This helps track the wave patterns of the brain.
The procedure involves the use of electrodes that are placed on the scalp. The electrodes are connected to a computer that helps translate the electric signals into patterns. The neurologist can thus view these patterns on the screen or print them out on paper.
The EEG results enable the neurologist to determine any abnormal electric activity of the brain. It also helps diagnoses various brain conditions such as tumors, injuries, sleep disorders, inflammation, and psychiatric or seizure disorders.
A sleep study is a diagnostic procedure for patients with chronic sleeping disorders. The procedure involves monitoring the patient while sleeping and electronically recording physiological data. The recorded data is then analyzed to identify the condition and the extent.
Sometimes, neurologists can opt for other types of imaging tests and procedures. These imaging tests can help them check the condition and effectively interpret the outcome. Some of these additional tests include the following;
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Uses radio waves and strong magnetic fields to produce images of the nervous system.
Computed tomography (CT) scan: It combines the x-rays images captured in different angles and computer technology to produce slices or cross-sectional pictures of the nervous system.
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: Uses a tracer, a radioactive drug, to portray the activities and the functions of the nervous system, including the brain.
Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT): This is a nuclear imaging test that evaluates the functions and activities of the brain.
Angioplasty: Used to check for blockages in the main blood vessels that feed the brain
Biopsy: Involves extracting and examining a small piece of the tissues to identify and diagnose neurological conditions.
Lab screening tests: Blood or urine can be tested to diagnose the neurological condition, determine the severity, and check the level of the therapeutic drugs.
When to see a Neurologist?
You should always visit a neurologist if you experience varying signs and symptoms such as;
- Chronic pain
- Headaches, migraines, or cluster headaches
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Mobility problems
- Numbness or tingling
- Confusion and memory problems
- Sensation changes
- Muscle weakness
- Coordination problems
- Sense disorder, including vision, touch, and smell
Treatment Options for Neurological Diseases
If the neurologists diagnose a particular disorder, they can suggest an appropriate treatment plan based on various factors. It can be the cause of the disease, symptoms, and severity.
The treatment options are divided into the following;
Non-surgical treatment options can include rehabilitation, medication, and therapies to help alleviate symptoms and enhance life quality.
Medication: The common types of neurology medicine that neurologists prescribe include;
- Blood thinners
- Anti-seizure drugs
- Corticosteroids and disease-modifying medicines
- Clot-busting medication
- Dopaminergic drugs
Radiation: This treatment is mainly used to treat brain tumors. It consists of radiosurgery and radiotherapy treatment.
Rehabilitation: Includes occupational therapy and physical therapy. Occupational therapy enables the patient to handle physical changes resulting from a neurological disorder. Physical therapy enhances the functions of the body.
Nerve stimulation: Brain stimulation therapies are recommended for disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy, especially when medication is not effective. These therapies help trigger certain brain parts using magnetic fields or electricity.
Pain management: This helps minimize severe pain caused by neurological disorders. It’s an essential treatment that forms part of the recovery process.
Surgical treatment option
Certain neurological conditions are best addressed through a surgical procedure. The common types of surgical procedures that neurologists can recommend include;
Minimally invasive surgery: Involves making small incisions and inserting equipment to operate and treat the condition surgically.
Convectional surgery: Involves making large cuts to extract tumors and unhealthy tissues, treat infections, drain fluids, and address aneurysm.
Neurology is a medical branch that aims to diagnose, treat, and manage various nervous system conditions. It also addresses diseases that affect the central nervous system as well as the peripheral nervous system. This includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
CloudHospital specializes in neurology and aims at giving patients the best treatment based on their health condition. It also works with various neurologists and neurosurgeons who utilize advanced equipment and technologies to diagnose and treat even the rarest and complex conditions.