More Than 200 Neurological Disorders Need Special Care
What do Alzhiemer’s disease, autism, pack pain, Bell’s palsy, carpal tunnel syndrome, cerebral palsy, chronic pain, diabetic neuropathy, Huntington’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), multiple sclerosis, narcolepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Restless Legs Syndrome, sleep apnea, stroke and Tourette’s syndrome have in common?
They are each categorized as one of the more than 600 neurological disorders that afflict the nervous system. Some of the disorders such as stroke, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and autism are fairly well-known, but many neurological disorders are familiar only to patients and families affected, their doctors and the research scientists studying them.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), neurological disorders strike and estimates 50 million Americans each year, exacting and annual economic cost of hundreds of billions of dollars in medical expenses and lost productivity. In addition to the measurable costs, the personal toll on those afflicted is significant.
Created by the U.S. congress in 1950, NINDS is one of the more than two dozen research institutes and centers that comprise the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Research conducted by scientists affiliated with NINDS looks at some of the rarer disorders, to gain a general understanding of the brain as well as to develop treatments for specific diseases. The NIH, located in Bethesda, Maryland, is an agency of the Public Health Service within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
How do you know if you need the services of a neurologist? A good first step is to talk with your family doctor or primary care physician who can offer advice or a referral to a specialist. According to the American Academy of Neurology (ANN), “a neurologist is a medical doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system. Neurologists do not perform surgery. A neurologist’s training includes and undergraduate degree, four years of medical school, a one-year internship and three years of specialized training. Many neurologists also have additional training in a specific area of neurology, such as stroke, epilepsy, or movement disorders. This is called a subspecialty.”
Neurologists serve as consultants to other physicians or as the primary providers of care for some patients. Patients who have been diagnosed with neurological disorders may find that because the disorder requires frequent care, it is logical that a neurologist serve as their primary care doctor. According to the ANN, if a neurologist serves in a consulting role, “a neurologist will diagnose and treat a neurological disorder and then advise the primary care doctor managing the person’s overall health.” For example, a neurologist may act in a consulting role for conditions such as stroke, concussion, or headache.
For additional information on neurology, neurosurgery and neuroscience, visit the ANN’s consumer Web site, www.thebrainmatters.com.