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What is neurology, anyway?

Boca Raton neurologist Dr. Renata Chalfin sets the record straight.


There's some confusion regarding what neurology is, anyway. Neurology is the study of the nervous system (which includes the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves) and its diseases.


People who may seek a neurologist probably suffer from symptoms such as headaches, burning pain in their feet, double vision, dizziness, spells or seizures or fainting, memory loss, difficulties with language, changes in behavior, numbness, weakness, spasticity or rigidity, or tremor. You may have noticed that a lot of these problem areas are often part of what makes us human - speech, language, thought processes, emotion, behavior, walking upright, and so on. That's frequently why neurologists go into this field - I would argue that our patients are the most interesting of people!


Neurologists may diagnose illnesses such as migraine, vestibular neuritis, peripheral neuropathy, essential tremor, dementia, Parkinson's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, stroke, functional neurologic disorder, or others. We may even diagnose "non-neurological" conditions manifesting as neurological signs or symptoms, like heart disease, nutritional deficiency, or autoimmune disease.


So what is neurology not? Neurology is not neurosurgery (neurologists do not perform surgery or any invasive procedures aside from spinal taps or the like), and it is not psychiatry or psychology (as much as we are fascinated with these parts of the human condition, and though we often treat coincident mood or anxiety disorders, we do not primarily manage complex psychiatric conditions or perform psychotherapy).


The common joke is that a neurologist is great at solving a diagnostic dilemma, but then they can't do anything about it. This simply is not true anymore. Most of the common neurological diseases are treatable and/or even preventable! There have been a lot of advances in the last ten years, and there are new medications and treatments coming out all the time. The important thing, for people with neurological symptoms, is to have a doctor that will hold your hand throughout the process, provide a listening ear, and provide you with options. The neurologist is the physician perfectly suited for this role. Often, we can help coordinate care for the patient among their other health professionals, including neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists, physical therapists, and others.


Do you have a neurological symptom that you need help diagnosing and/or treating? Call 561-961-8575 to make an appointment with me today!