What Is a Neurologist?

A neurologist specializes in treating nervous system disorders – basically, any of a large assortment of illnesses or injuries that can affect the brain, spine, nerves, or muscles.

In addition to their medical degree, neurologists typically also undergo at least three years of specialty residency training. Because neurology encompasses so much, many neurologists pursue a fellowship after their residency training for even more specialized training.

What Do Neurologists Treat?

Patients with a traumatic brain injury – such as can be caused by repeated concussions – will be treated by a neurologist. Sometimes an issue with the brain may cause problems with touch, smell, or vision, all of which also would be treated by a neurologist.

In addition, neurologists treat and help patients manage neurological conditions and symptoms including balance or coordination issues, muscle weakness, confusion. Patients who have suffered a stroke, or have multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), dementia, or a nervous system infection will find the specialist they need in a properly trained and qualified neurologist.

Subspecialties of Neurology

Some neurologists choose a subspecialty within the field to focus on. Some of the more common of these include:

  • Geriatric Neurology. The field of geriatric neurology addresses neurological issues that affect older adults, including dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and even seizure disorders that can develop in later years.
  • Headache Medicine. Much of what neurologists in this subspecialty focus on is not just treating or managing a patient’s symptoms – but addressing underlying causes of headaches such as vascular conditions like temporal arteritis.
  • Neuromuscular Medicine. Neurologists in this subspecialty might diagnose and treat a wide range of nerve and muscle disorders such as ALS or muscular dystrophy. These motor neuron diseases may affect adults and children.
  • Neuro-Oncology. This is a fancy word for the study of brain and spinal tumors. This field includes the study and treatment of malignant cancers like astrocytoma and glioblastoma, but it may also include benign tumors as well.
  • Pediatric Neurology. When neurological problems occur in children, it can be particularly worrisome because it could cause developmental delays and other complications related to a child’s proper growth. Physicians specializing in pediatric neurology deal with these issues.
  • Stroke Care. Neurologists specializing in stroke care help patients during their recovery after a stroke, as well as helping patients address their risk factors for another stroke.