The medical specialty that deals with disorders of the nervous system is known as neurology. It includes dealing with both the central and peripheral nervous systems and their coverings, blood vessels and effector tissue such as muscle. A neurologist is the type of doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatments of these disorders.
Neurology When there are biochemical, structural or electrical abnormalities in the spinal cord, brain or other nerves causing a neurological disorder, a range of symptoms can result such as paralysis, poor coordination, weakness in the muscles, seizures, loss of sensation, pain, confusion and altered levels of consciousness. When anyone or several of these symptoms occur, a person should seek out the advice of a neurologist who can perform a neurological examination.
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A neurologist who performs a neurological examination will not only use his or her own observations but several items to assist in the diagnosis. These may include a tuning fork, reflex hammer, flashlight, ophthalmoscope, and needles. In addition, x-rays can be taken of any part of a patient’s body, including the chest and skull and even joints and mayor organ systems. Both conventional x-rays which pass a concentrated burst of low-dose ionized radiation through the body and onto a photographic plate and fluoroscopy which use pulsed beams of the same low-dose radiation to produce more continuous images of parts of the body can be used to see bone structures and to evaluate the flow of blood through the arteries.
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Blood tests can also be used to detect infections in the brain and spinal cord, bone marrow disease, damage to the blood vessels and toxins that affect the nervous system. Genetic testing of DNA from white cells in the blood can be used to diagnose congenital nervous disorders. Finally, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord can be analyzed to detect acute and chronic inflammation, meningitis and some rare infections.
There are several key treatments for neurological disorders. Brain mapping is often used for brain tumors and epilepsy while brain stimulation is used for Parkinson’s disease. Neurosurgeons use three-dimensional imaging technology to operate on the brain so as to better target the precise area where a tumor is located and not produce any permanent neurological deficit. Deep brain stimulation uses battery-operated neurotransmitters implanted under the collarbone to prevent the abnormal brain signals that are produced in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
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Another one is Gamma Knife which is not a knife but a machine that that delivers a single, highly focused, high dose of radiation to its target, such as abnormal blood vessel formations, with little or no damage to the tissue surrounding the area of treatment. The advantages from this non-invasive procedure are that abnormalities as small as one inch in diameter can be treated and even serious disorders can be done in one day without staying in the hospital overnight.
With the great deal of research being done in the field of neurology and the ability to detect neurological disorders early, more and more patients are now able to seek relief from such disorders that can be debilitating to everyday life.