A neurologist diagnoses and treats a wide range of nervous system disorders and conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, migraine headaches and stroke, explains Life NPH. Other medical problems for which patients may visit a neurologist include multiple sclerosis, sleep disorders, nerve pain, spinal cord injuries and brain tumors.
Neurologists sometimes practice as care providers and act as consultants to other types of doctors in other situations, as Life NPH explains. For example, it is common for patients with multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease to visit a neurologist regularly for care. Conversely, a primary care doctor may refer a patient with chronic headaches to a neurologist for diagnosis or to develop a treatment plan, but the patient can then continue treatment for the headaches under the primary care doctor.
A neurologist differs from a neurosurgeon in that a neurologist does not have the necessary training to perform surgical procedures on the brain, spine and peripheral nerves, notes Life NPH. If a patient has a neurological condition requiring surgical intervention, such as a brain aneurysm at risk of rupturing or a spinal tumor causing debilitating symptoms, a neurologist can consult with a neurosurgeon on the patient's behalf. However, neurosurgeons can also provide nonsurgical care in some cases. Following a surgical procedure by a neurosurgeon, the patient's neurologist may play a role in monitoring post-operative progress.