If you’ve had a brain injury, seizure or stroke—the fifth leading cause of death in the United States—it’s likely you saw a neurologist at the hospital. A neurologist is trained in diagnosis and treatment of conditions of the brain and nervous system, like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and other ailments of the brain, spinal cord and nerves.
Here are five signs to know when it’s time to see a neurologist:
- YOU CAN'T KEEP YOUR BALANCE
We all take a tumble at one point or another, whether it's missing a stair or slipping on a wet spot on the kitchen floor. Everyday trips and falls are a part of life, but if you lose your balance more than the average person or experience bouts of dizziness, spinning or faintness—and stumble or fall as a result—a visit to the doctor might be in order.
Severe or sudden loss of balance, however, could indicate an emergency, especially when coupled with certain symptoms. For example, along with a serious headache, trouble speaking or numbness in the face, arm or leg, it may signal a stroke. In cases like this, head directly to the hospital.
- YOU HAVE SUDDEN AND SEVERE HEADACHES
Headaches caused by stress, allergies, caffeine or hormones are fairly common, affecting nearly everyone on occasion. Migraines, which impact almost 12 percent of Americans, are severe headaches that cause nausea, sensitivity to light and even vomiting. The occasional headache is not likely cause for concern. But, if severe headaches or migraines develop suddenly, or are very different than normal, they may signal a neurological problem.
Still, there are times you shouldn’t wait. Severe headaches accompanied by another neurological issue—vision loss, inability to speak or weakness—should be taken to the ER. These could be signs of a stroke, concussion, meningitis or a brain tumor, all of which need immediate attention.
YOUR VISION CHANGES
Gradual changes in vision can be a caused by a number of conditions related specifically to the eyes, like cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. However, not all vision problems originate with the eyes themselves; some are caused by neurological issues.
A stroke, during which blood flow to the brain is cut off, may cause blurred or double vision. Changes in eyesight can also be a symptom of a nervous system disorder like multiple sclerosis (MS), or the result of a brain tumor. In general, severe or sudden double vision, dimness or loss of sight in one or both eyes could signal a problem. Don't ignore them, and head to the emergency room.
- YOU’RE EASILY CONFUSED—WHEN YOU WEREN’T BEFORE
It’s human nature to forget small things once in a while, like where you set down your keys. Occasional forgetfulness can be the result of medication, stress or lack of sleep.
But confusion, memory loss and trouble thinking could also signal a major health problem. If a person manifests a tendency to be confused, that often lets us know that something's going on. For one thing, these are all signs of dementia, a group of conditions —including Alzheimer's disease—that affects thinking, social abilities and memory.
Sudden, serious disorientation may indicate delirium, as well, especially when it's coupled with drastic mood swings, changes in alertness and shifts in sleep. Delirium happens for a number of reasons, including drug and alcohol overdose, infection and severe chronic illness. And while it usually goes away after a few days, distinguishing it from dementia, delirium should be reported to a doctor as soon as possible.
More serious reasons to get medical attention? Seizures, stroke and brain tumors can result in confusion and memory loss, and should be checked by a professional without delay.
- YOU HAVE TROUBLE SLEEPING
Sure, sleep apnea, anxiety and a wonky bedtime schedule can hinder your ability to get a good night’s rest. However, if you’re experiencing overwhelming attacks of drowsiness, the uncontrollable sensation to move your legs or trouble sleeping in conjunction with other symptoms, see your doctor. A neurological condition may be the culprit.
Narcolepsy, for example, is a nervous system disorder that causes daytime drowsiness and sudden bouts of sleep. It may be difficult for people to stay awake for long periods of time and function well throughout the day. Despite being tired during waking hours, people with this condition have problems sleeping through the night, and are often plagued with nighttime sleep disturbances.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is another neurological condition; it disrupts sleep by causing overwhelming and irritating urges to move your legs. Symptoms of RLS often worsen when you're lying down or sitting for long periods of time. Experts don’t know exactly what causes the condition, but believe there are genetic and neurological components.
For information click here Lourdes Health System - Neurology.