Primary care doctors can’t address every medical issue by themselves. That’s why they will frequently refer patients to specialists. 

One type of specialist your primary doc may refer you to is a neurologist. In this article, we’ll take a look at the answer to the common question “Why would I be referred to a neurologist?”

What Is a Neurologist?

A neurologist is a medical doctor or specialist that provides treatment for medical conditions that affect the nervous system. Neurologists can also assess the patient’s symptoms, diagnose their condition. 

They provide treatment for a variety of conditions that affect the nervous system. Some of these include Parkinson’s disease, seizures, multiple sclerosis, migraines, dementia, severe or frequent headaches, and stroke.

Why Would I Be Referred To a Neurologist?

The broad, general answer to that question is that your primary care doctor has concerns about some aspect of your nervous system. This may turn up during a routine exam or when you go to the doctor specifically due to symptoms that may be related to nervous system diseases or disorders. 

Here are some of the more specific, and common, reasons you might get a referral to a neurologist. 


One quite common one is you are having headaches. Not just the occasional, normal headaches we all experience from time to time. 

We’re talking about severe and frequent headaches. Ones that medicine and rest will barely help you recover from, it at all.  

Headaches like these may be a sign that you have a nervous system disorder. This is a case where seeing a neurologist, especially one who specializes in treating headaches, makes sense. 

Back or Neck Problems

Your primary doctor, or even chiropractic doctor, may refer you to a neurologist if you have serious back and neck problems. This may happen if you recently suffered an injury to the spine. 

It’s not uncommon for serious back or neck problems to cause pain, tingling and numbness. These are all signs that the injury – like a slipped disc – is putting pressure on nearby nerves. 

Memory Problems

For those who experience memory problems, seeing a neurologist often makes a lot of sense.  

Unfortunately there is currently no cure for some conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, a neurologist can still be helpful in these types of situations. They can help assess a patient’s cognitive functioning through cognitive tests and more. They also take a look at memory loss caused by accidents and other non-age-related factors. 

Seizures and Epilepsy

A neurologist also deals with conditions such as seizures and epilepsy. Seizures cause uncontrolled movements of the body along with strange sensations. 

Neurologists can perform tests and imaging to learn the cause of your seizures. If you are having long-term seizures, you may be diagnosed with epilepsy by a neurologist. 

Types of Neurologists

The above is just a sampling of things you may be referred to a neurologist for. As you can see, there is a wide range of conditions that neurologists help treat.

Because there are so many neurological related conditions out there, the field of neurology also has many subtypes. Each subtype focuses on one aspect of the medical needs of the nervous system. 

For instance, a neurodevelopmental neurologist focuses on nervous system conditions that affect the patient’s brain and nervous system development. 

On the other hand, a vascular neurologist focuses more on treating and taking care of the brain’s circulatory system problems. 

There are also neurologists who focus on treating strokes, pain and more. 

So, if you need a referral, be sure to talk to your primary care doctor about what type of neurologist it makes the most sense for you to see.

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