A neurology doctor, or neurologist, is a healthcare professional who diagnoses and treats disorders affecting the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. He or she can specialize in one area or work more broadly, and can also be either a primary care provider or work in consultation with other healthcare providers. It usually takes about 14 years of university-level training to become a neurologist in most countries, as well as passing several national-level certification exams.
Neurologists can help treat a wide variety of conditions, including birth defects, like spinal bifida and medical conditions like strokes, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. He or she can also treat tumors on the brain and spinal cord, and trauma, like concussions and strokes. Some choose to specialize in treating people of a certain age, like children or the elderly, while others focus on a specific condition, like headaches or dementia. Additionally, a neurology doctor can work as a reference for other healthcare professionals, giving them advice about the effects on the nervous system of medical conditions like Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), or of certain substances, like drugs or alcohol.
The day-to-day work environment of a neurology doctor often depends on the type of condition he or she specializes in. For example, one who focuses on epilepsy may act as the primary care provider to his or her patients, educating them about their condition, prescribing medication or recommending surgery to reduce their symptoms, and accepting referrals from other doctors. A person specializing in strokes, on the other hand, would probably act as a secondary care provider and advising other healthcare professionals. Regardless of the specialty, when first seeing a patient, a neurology doctor usually does a series of tests to help with diagnosis. This includes things like reflex tests, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies, and lumbar punctures.
Though the requirements for becoming a neurology doctor vary by area, in most places, a person has to complete a medical degree, pass national-level tests to get a medical license, and then take an additional three to four-year residency, which consists of specialized training in neurology. Those who specialize in one area often take several more years of training after their residencies through fellowships to ensure that they are experts in their area of practice and to be competitive in their field. Many countries have national associations that offer certification for neurologists who complete all their training and pass an exam, which can also be helpful for getting a job in top healthcare facilities. In addition to all of the formal training needed to become certified as a neurology doctor, most neurologists also take ongoing education courses and programs to keep up with innovations in diagnosing and treatments.
Choosing a Neurologist
When choosing a neurology doctor, a person can consult his or her primary healthcare provider for suggestions and referrals. It's also generally a good idea to look for neurologists who specialize in the particular problem that needs treating, and to check on their credentials. Many areas have national databases about licensed practitioners, including any complaints made against them, as do many national-level associations, like the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) in the US.