Things to Expect When You See a Neurologist — and How to Advocate for Yourself and Your Care

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If you're about to see a neurologist for the first time, it's only natural to have some questions and concerns. Whether you're visiting due to chronic migraines, out-of-the-ordinary memory problems, or you've recently had a stroke, understanding what you can expect from your first visit can do wonders for your anxiety.

And we want to stress that it's perfectly normal to feel anxious or worried about your potential diagnosis – for many people, it all comes down to the fear of the unknown. If you don't know what you can expect from your visit to a neurologist, your mind can conjure up all kinds of worst-case scenarios.

To prepare you for your upcoming neurologist visit and help you get the most out of it, we'll take you through the process of seeing a neurologist, plus give you tips on how to best advocate for yourself and your care.

What to Expect from Your Neurologist Appointment

While every neurological issue requires unique, tailored-to-that-patient care, there are certain commonalities among most neurology visits. Here is a general idea of what you can expect from your upcoming appointment.

Discussion of Medical History

When you meet your neurologist for the first time, expect a thorough discussion about your medical history. So, make sure you have all the relevant medical records, test results, and lab work with you. 

Also, be prepared to share details about your symptoms, such as how they feel and when they started, as well as any family history of neurological conditions. Be as honest and open during this conversation as possible because it will form the foundation for your diagnosis and potential treatment plan.

Physical Examination

The next step typically involves a physical examination. This is done so the neurologist can assess your nervous system and rule out any other potential causes of your symptoms. This can include testing your reflexes, muscle strength, coordination, and sensory perception. Don't worry, though – these exams are typically non-invasive and painless. Their purpose is to help the neurologist pinpoint the issue.

Diagnostic Testing

Depending on your symptoms, your neurologist may recommend various diagnostic tests, such as MRI, CT scans, angiogram, EEG, EMG, or other tests. These can provide valuable insights into the structure and function of your nervous system. After they're complete, your doctor will review the results – which may take a while – and then either give you the final diagnosis or order more tests.

Diagnosis and Treatment Plan

Once your neurologist has gathered all necessary information, they will discuss their findings with you. If they make a diagnosis, you can expect them to explain the condition and potential treatment options. Depending on your diagnosis, they may prescribe medications and/or provide guidance on lifestyle changes that may help improve your condition.

Advocating for Yourself

To ensure you receive the best possible care, it's important to be an active advocate for your health. Here is how you can do that.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions

This cannot be stressed enough – don't hesitate to ask questions you may have about your diagnosis. If you're uncomfortable with the diagnosis or treatment plan or unsatisfied with your doctor's explanations, feel free to seek a second opinion. 

Regularly and Clearly Communicate

Neurological care is usually not a one-time event. You can expect follow-up visits to monitor your progress, adjust treatments if necessary, and address any new concerns you may have. During these visits, feel free to ask for further clarifications about anything you're confused about and communicate any changes in your condition to your doctor.

Understand How Neurology Is Billed

Make sure you understand how neurology billing works so you don't end up with astronomical out-of-pocket expenses you cannot afford. Before your appointment, check with your insurance provider what services are covered and what you may be responsible for. This way, you can either avoid or at least plan for any unexpected expenses and fees.

Trust Your Instincts

Ultimately, you know your body better than anyone else. So, if something doesn't feel right or you believe your treatment plan needs adjustment, don't hesitate to voice your concerns to your neurologist. If you have social anxiety and are not sure how to voice your concerns, simply follow up on what the doctor is saying. You have every right to ask questions about your body and health.

Stay Informed

Lastly, stay informed about your condition and treatment options. Reliable sources of information include reputable medical websites like Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Cleveland Clinic, as well as books and articles from recognized healthcare professionals and advice from peer experts on sites like The Ability Toolbox.

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I'm Alice and I live with a dizzying assortment of invisible disabilities, including ADHD and fibromyalgia. I write to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental and chronic illnesses of all kinds. 

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