Preparing For Your Neurologist Appointment – All You Need To Know

Seeing a neurologist can make people feel anxious and nervous, but this feeling often stems from unpreparedness. Once you gather all the necessary paperwork and prepare yourself mentally for an appointment, this feeling may subside or even vanish completely. 

Another reason for dismay is the classic fear of the unknown. If you don’t know what to expect from a visit to your neurologist, it can bring up a myriad of concerns and a high level of anxiety. Not knowing what’s waiting for you in the doctor’s office – what kind of uncomfortable procedures, tests, or questions you will be asked – will unequivocally raise disquietness and make the whole experience needlessly stressful.

We’ve devised a comprehensive guide that will come in handy next time you’re preparing for your neurologist appointment.

First Visit To A Neurologist

Your very first visit to a neurologist might be the most uncomfortable for you, simply because you’re not sure what to expect. Plus, the first visit usually entails a number of personal questions or unpleasant tests and procedures.

By preparing yourself beforehand, you’re taking most of the uneasy moments out of your first visit to the doctor’s office.

Step 1: Patient History

The first step will be to let you neurologist know you better. You will be asked a lot of questions that will help her or him to establish a diagnosis and a possible course of treatment. Make sure to answer every question about your conditions honestly and unambiguously. 

You will likely be asked to describe your current problem and what brought you to a neurology specialist. Depending on your symptoms, she or he will ask you further questions like when did the migraines start, if there are any exacerbating factors, the severity of the symptoms, and others. The doctor will try to eliminate other possible diagnoses and will ask questions that you might find irrelevant, but trust her or him!

You will have to answer questions regarding any drugs or medications you’re taking, more specifically: 

  • Dose, frequency, route, and compliance of all medications
  • Recreational drugs
  • Intravenous drug use
  • Over the counter medications 

Another important thing is to mention any allergy you have and your history with anaphylaxis. 

Furthermore, disease history, family history, and social history (traveling, alcohol intake, and others.) are pivotal parts of your medical history. Mention any brain injury, disease, and conditions that run in your family so your doctor can stay on top of your problem.

Now is not the time for shame or embarrassment – you’re not doing yourself a favor by keeping things from a medical professional. Your doctor needs to know every single detail about your patient history in order to come up with a correct diagnosis and the right treatment plan for your condition. 

Step 2: Neurological exam

What follows is a neurological exam. The neurologist will check your: 

  • Mental status
  • Speech 
  • Vision
  • Strength
  • Coordination
  • Sensation
  • Reflexes

Step 3: Additional tests

If deemed necessary, your neurologist may order some additional neurological diagnostic tests and procedures that include: 

  • Laboratory screening tests: Testing the blood, urine, and other bodily fluids can help the doctor understand and see what is going on in your body. 
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI takes about 30 minutes, and it is done with the intention to take pictures of your inner brain through magnetic fields and radio waves. 
  • Computerized Tomography (CT) or Computerized Axial Tomography (CAT) scans: CT or CAT scans provide multi-dimensional images of your body.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG): During an EEG, electrodes attached to your scalp record electrical activity in your brain. 
  • Transcranial Doppler (TCD): An ultrasound probe that measures blood flow in your brain via sound waves will be placed on your head. 
  • Lumbar Puncture or Spinal Tap: This entails taking your spinal fluid with a needle and further testing it for infections, bleeding, and others. 
  • Electromyogram (EMG): This test helps find the cause of pain, numbness, and weakness by tracking electrical activity in your muscles and nerves. 

Keep in mind that you may not have to undergo all of these tests at your visit. Your doctor will determine what kind of tests you need based on your symptoms. Furthermore, don’t let the sheer amount of tests and procedures frighten you – most of them won’t hurt, although they may cause slight discomfort like any other medical test. 

How long will the appointment last?

It depends on a multitude of factors – is it your first appointment, do you need to take additional tests and screenings or not, and similar. Your first neurology appointment usually takes longer because it entails a few steps that aren’t a part of the follow-up exams, like getting a patient’s history. 

What To Bring To A Neurologist Appointment

Symptom diary 

If you suffer from a chronic condition, one particularly helpful thing to bring would be your symptom diary. This is one of the most effective measures you can take to help your doctor in the evaluation of your condition. You can use MigraineBuddy (available on iOS and Android) to track each migraine attack. MigraineBuddy’s helpful features can help you get better insight into your health and they can aid in discovering the triggers for your migraines.

Keeping tabs on things like new symptoms, changes, headache frequency, severity, triggers, duration, and response to medication, including side effects, will provide a full picture for your doctor. It might be less stressful to log this information before your appointment rather than in the waiting room, where you might feel rushed or distracted. More importantly, tracking your episodes “on the fly” or whenever they occur, give you a more precise report as compared to trying to remember all of them afterwards.

A friend or a family member

Besides a diary that describes your symptoms, it’s also a smart idea to bring a friend or a relative, someone who can listen carefully to your doctor, take notes, and ensure you didn’t miss anything.

Chances are you will receive plenty of information during your appointment, and having someone by your side will take a lot of pressure off of you. This way, you can pour all your focus and feel more relaxed for the tests, procedures, and similar.

Another benefit of having someone with you at your appointment is that they can assist with your history. 

Previous test results

If you’ve done any tests or procedures before, it’s important to bring them to your appointment. Unless all of your doctors are networked through a common electronic records system, they probably don’t have access to your previous test results and laboratory work. Don’t forget to include the images if you’ve undergone an MRI and similar tests. 

Medication list

In case you suffer from more than one condition, and you’re taking medication for them, you ought to prepare a list of them all for your appointment. 

When the doctor takes your history, she or he will ask you what kind of drugs and medications you use, so it could help to have a list of treatment plans prepared instead of trying to think on the spot. Not to mention that this way you won’t forget to list any medications, which could easily happen if you’re trying to remember them at the moment.

Make sure to include all the medication – prescription, over-the-counter, and any vitamins or supplements you’re using. It is very important, because medication can sometimes interact with each other and you want to avoid any side effect because of this interaction. By the way, it is also smart to ask your pharmacist: they know everything about medication interaction.

Insurance information

One thing that many patients overlook is insurance information. When you make the first appointment, find out what kind of documentation you need to bring regarding insurance. 

Some neurology clinics require their patients to bring their insurance card or an ID to verify benefits and coverage limitations with their insurance company, and so forth. It’s best to discuss all financial concerns prior to your appointment before you incur any fees.  

Patients also need to include information about other health care providers in case their medical care is not coordinated under one health care system with universal access to their health records. Each patient is advised to bring a list of all their physicians and their info.

We recommend you follow the step-by-step guide on how to prepare your visit with your Migraine Buddy records inside the app.

Questions To Discuss With Your Neurologist

You want to stay on top of your condition and be prepared for what may come. When you visit your neurologist, think up a few questions that will help you better understand your medical condition. These question may include, but are not limited to: 

  • What kind of tests do I need, and do they require any special preparation?
  • What is the most likely cause of my condition?
  • What side effects can I expect, and what to do if they appear?
  • What are the best treatment options for my diagnosis?
  • What can help alleviate the pain besides medication?
  • Can I make any lifestyle changes that will help me with the pain and other symptoms?
  • How will this diagnosis impact my everyday life?
  • Do I need to see other doctors for follow-up exams?

It goes without saying that you can ask questions about any concern or fear you might feel. Don’t be quiet about any matter just because it seems embarrassing or uncomfortable; your doctor will be happy to discuss them with you and provide you with much-needed information.

After An Appointment

Just before you finish your appointment, be absolutely sure you understand everything and have no remaining questions for your doctor. If new medication has been added to your treatment plan, you must know what it does, when to take it, how much to take, potential side effects, and what to do if they occur. 

Since most patients have a long-term relationship with their neurologists, it can’t hurt to make your next appointment right then and there. When your ongoing appointment is finished, ask for a new appointment because neurologists are often booked months in advance. 

As soon as you leave the doctor’s office, compare notes with the person you’ve brought to your appointment. There is a good chance you’ve misunderstood something, and if anything remains unclear, consult your doctor right away. 

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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