Primary care physicians play an invaluable role in the health care process, but some medical conditions require the expertise of a specialist. That's particularly true when signs and symptoms indicate a potential brain or nervous system issue. From brain fog, fatigue, and frequent headaches, to stroke-like symptoms or a family history of multiple sclerosis or another neurological condition, Lori Hendin Travis, MD, a neurologist at HonorHealth Neurology, says many situations warrant seeing a neurologist.
"Anytime an MRI shows something suspicious in the brain, I'd advocate for getting to a specialist as early as possible," she said. "Also, if there are strange symptoms like numbness down to the hands, numbness on one side of the body, or facial drooping, see a neurologist right away."
While these symptoms are similar to those exhibited during a stroke, they can also be indicators of various neurological conditions. This is particularly true when the symptoms surface in younger individuals – under age 50 – or in those who have not suffered a stroke. Of course, Dr. Travis says being evaluated by a neurologist is a must after a stroke.
Dr. Travis also recommends that patients who have already been diagnosed with a neurological condition and are undergoing routine treatment consult with a neurologist on an annual basis.
"New medications and therapies are coming out every year," she said. "Even if you've been on treatment for years and you're doing well, it's worth a consultation to see if there's something new that might be better."
A family history of neurological issues such as multiple sclerosis is another important reason to see a neurologist.
"There are genetic aspects of many neurological conditions," Dr. Travis said. "A neurologist can help assess your personal risk factors and give a baseline of your brain health."
Another indicator of cognitive impairment or neurological deficit is sudden behavior changes.
"Everyone gets and experiences brain fog from time to time, but if the people around you take notice and are concerned, then it's worth looking into," Dr. Travis said.
With so many variables surrounding brain health, Dr. Travis says it's important to be vigilant. Don't write off your symptoms as just getting caught up in your busy life. Instead, talk to a neurologist to see if the changes you and/or your loved ones notice could be pointing to something more serious. Early intervention makes all the difference.