Getting Started With Neurological Treatment
Understanding Neurologic Conditions
What is a Neurological Condition?
Neurological conditions are diseases and disorders that affect the brain, spinal cord, eyes and nerves throughout the body. They refer to a dysfunction in one or several areas of the nervous system, which leads to a number of difficulties in the nervous system either immediately or progressively over time.
There are more than 600 neurologic diseases. Major types include:
- Diseases caused by faulty genes, such as Huntington's disease and muscular dystrophy
- Problems with the way the nervous system develops, such as spina bifida
- Degenerative diseases, where nerve cells are damaged or die, such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease
- Diseases of the blood vessels that supply the brain, such as stroke
- Injuries to the spinal cord and brain
- Seizure disorders, such as epilepsy
- Cancer, such as brain tumors
- Infections, such as meningitis
Difference Between Neurologist and Brain Surgeon
A neurologist is a physician who has received special training in the diagnosis and medical treatment of nervous system diseases.
Patients who believe they may have a neurologic condition are usually referred to a neurologist first to diagnose their condition. The neurologist may prescribe medications or physical therapy. If it's a disorder for which neurosurgery is appropriate, the patient would then be referred to a neurosurgeon.
Neurosurgeons are physicians who have been specially trained to do surgery on nerves, brain and spinal cord.
There are many different types of neurologic conditions, however, and not all of them require surgery to treat. Should you require surgery after seeing a neurologist, the Cedars-Sinai Department of Neurosurgery works closely with our specialists to reach the best possible outcomes for patients.
An accurate diagnosis is the first step toward effective treatment. During your visit, the neurologist will examine your brain and nerve functioning. This may include checking your cognitive ability, speech, vision, strength, coordination, reflexes and physical sensations.
We may also order or conduct imaging tests and other screenings during your first visit. These can include taking images of your brain or spine, collecting blood or urine samples, and testing how well electrical signals travel through your nerves, among others.
How long does it take to get a diagnosis?
That varies from patient to patient and by condition. In some cases, the neurologist will make a diagnosis after your initial examination. Other conditions require more time and testing to diagnose. Rest assured that your Cedars-Sinai medical team will do everything they can to ensure you don't have to wait unnecessarily. Learn about the diagnostic procedures and exams performed at Cedars-Sinai.
How to Get Help
Looking for a neurological specialist? At Cedars-Sinai, you'll find a highly skilled team of doctors and specialists in neurology and neurosurgery, who work together with other care teams to provide expert care for your condition.
Get a Second Opinion or Make an Appointment
A second opinion occurs when a doctor gives you their view on your condition after you've received a diagnosis from another doctor. It can help confirm a diagnosis or provide a different perspective, so you can begin taking steps toward care and treatment. This can be a good idea, especially when you've been diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening disease.
If you've been diagnosed by another hospital or provider, you can still get a second opinion at Cedars-Sinai. Your doctor will examine any test results you bring, and may perform new tests and assessments to determine whether they agree with your current diagnosis.
Preparing for Your Neurology Appointment
Once you've found a neurologist or neurosurgeon and booked your first appointment, it is normal to feel uneasy about the upcoming visit. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare and reduce your concerns.
What to Bring to Your First Visit
- Request copies of medical records, tests and screenings from medical providers not affiliated with Cedars-Sinai. Bring these with you to your first visit, unless you are directed to mail them in first.
- Ask a friend or loved one to go with you for support and to take notes.
- Bring your insurance card and a picture ID.
- Bring a list of your medications, including nutritional supplements, and their dosages.
- Be prepared to discuss family medical history—some neurological conditions may have genetic factors.
- Arrive at least 15 minutes before your appointment to check in and fill out forms.
Cedars-Sinai's new-patient packet includes forms you can download and fill out in advance.
Questions to Ask About Treatment
Whatever your neurological condition may be, it's important to be well-informed about your treatment plan. Here are some questions to ask the neurologist at your next appointment:
- What is the goal of my treatment?
- What's the likelihood of success?
- How is the treatment administered?
- How often will I need treatment?
- How long will my treatment last?
- When will I know if the treatment has worked?
- What if the treatment doesn't work?
- Will I have to spend time in the hospital?
- How will I feel during my treatment?
- Will I be able to continue my current lifestyle?
- What are other possible treatment options?
- Are there lifestyle changes I can make that will help improve my condition?
- Is there anything else I can do to help my recovery?
Already diagnosed with a neurological condition? You can receive expert care for complex brain and nervous system disorders, including brain tumors, stroke, ALS, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.