The Lowdown: Your first appointment with a neurologist

Do you have recurring headaches? This may be migraine. A neurologist usually diagnoses this. But what happens at your first appointment?
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A headache that keeps reappearing time and time again may be more than just your average headache. A quick search on the internet may suggest a more serious condition. And this condition might just be migraine. In this situation, your first port of call will probably be your doctor. Your doctor may then refer you to another specialist – a neurologist.

But what, exactly, do neurologists do?

Neurologists are specialist doctors who deal in particular with the brain. This means that they are responsible for diagnosing, treating, and managing conditions that affect your central nervous system (which includes your brain and spinal cord) and your peripheral nervous system (which includes nerves connecting to muscles in the rest of the body).

What will happen at my first neurologist appointment?

Meeting someone new is always a little bit nerve-wracking. This is especially the case when it comes to visiting a health professional. If you feel unsure or uncertain before your first neurologist appointment, don’t be put off! Keep in mind that they are there to help you. Hopefully, this first appointment is the very beginning of your to journey a happier and healthier life.

If you do find yourself feeling anxious, it may help to familiarise yourself with the kind of thing you may experience. The very start of your first neurologist appointment is likely to begin with you providing a little background information: your medical history; the symptoms you have been experiencing; any history of migraine in your family.

After this introductory information has been shared, your neurologist may carry out some examinations or tests. These may include:

scan of a brain
A CT Scan takes x-ray scans from lots of different angles to produce a variety of images of the body.
  • CT Scan: Sometimes known as a CAT Scan or Computerised Typography Scan, a CT is a special kind of x-ray. It involves you lying down in a white circular structure (which looks a lot like a white Polo mint!). This machine then takes lots of x-ray scans from different angles. The neurologist uses this scan to determine whether your pain is coming from spinal issues, internal bleeding, and tumours around the head area.
  • MRI Scan: A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce really detailed images of the inside of the body. Your neurologist is especially likely to carry out an MRI Scan on you if you have recently suffered an injury. It looks a lot like a CT Scanner, and similarly involves lying down as the image is taken.
  • EEG: An Electroencephalogram (EEG) records brain activity. Small metal discs (called electrodes) will be attached to your head. EEGs are useful in helping your neurologist identify any brain injuries, brain damage, or sleep issues.

How can I prepare for my appointment?

As your neurologist will need to know your medical history, make sure to get hold of any documents and organise them. This will also involve you knowing all your health conditions, medications, allergies, etc. Any family history of migraine will also be really useful – this can help the diagnosis process. Being able to describe your pain can also make diagnosing simpler. Be sure to pinpoint exactly where in your head you experience your pain, how long it lasts for, and any triggers you have identified. And, of course, if you have any questions, be sure to ask them!

What happens next if the neurologist does diagnose migraine?

If your neurologist believes your headaches are indeed part of a migraine condition, the first step will involve them providing you with a treatment plan. This will include advice on lifestyle changes (which will help you to avoid triggers) and may involve a medication prescription.

Remember, the neurologist is there to help you! Whilst your first neurologist appointment will be a new, unusual experience, you will hopefully leave with more understanding of migraine – and just how best to manage it!

Sources

First neurology appointments

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