What is neurology? To define it in a straightforward manner, neurology is a specialty in the medical profession that deals primarily with brain and nervous system disorders. All ailments that affect the autonomic, peripheral or central nervous system can be classified as neurological disorders and may include those that involve the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves as well. A doctor that specializes in this field is called a neurologist, while a neurosurgeon is one that specializes in the treatment of neurological diseases through surgical procedures.
Brain-related specialties, however, are not only what neurology is all about. Other than epilepsy; migraines and headaches; brain cancer; cognitive and behavioral disorders; and traumatic brain injuries, such progressive disorders like Lou Gehrig’s and Huntington’s diseases; demyelinating diseases like multiple sclerosis; spinal cord disorders; diseases affecting the muscles and peripheral nerves; and neuromuscular junctions can also be tagged as neurological disorders.
The human nervous system is very extensive and a key to the proper diagnosis of neurological diseases is to localize its pathology. This means that the origin of specific symptoms must be determined, and how it involves the nervous system, if at all. This is also necessary in order to map out the right approach to treat and manage the disorder that eliminates trial and error.
Neurological tests that deal with mental status and cranial examinations are done, as well as those that are intended to examine the coordination, strength, reflexes and sensation. After the necessary diagnostic procedures are concluded, the existence of a neurological disorder may either be ruled out or confirmed.
The requirements to study what is neurology vary around the world. 12 years of classroom and clinical training is the average, however. In North America, specifically in the US and Canada, candidates are required to complete an undergraduate four-year course, a four-year degree in medicine proper, and another four-year residency training in the chosen field of specialization. Students also have the option to go for further specialty training after completing the required residency.
In the UK and Ireland, candidates are required to complete anywhere between 5 to 9 years of in-medical schooling after which they become house officers in hospitals. They will then need to pass an examination before they can resume neurology training. In Germany, 1 year psychiatry training is included in the residency training requirements to specialize in neurology.
In many aspects, neurology and psychiatry seem to overlap. Although some particular mental disorders are generally believed to be neurological ailments, they are actually classified as psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. These two diseases are believed to be the result of a certain neurochemical imbalance. However diagnosis and treatments are normally done by psychiatrists.
The overlap on what is neurology and what is psychiatry can likewise be seen in such known neurological ailments that manifest psychiatric symptoms like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s. Thus, it is not uncommon for people afflicted with these illnesses to experience mood disorder, cognitive dysfunction, as well as depression. These symptoms are treated by a psychiatrist, and not a neurologist.
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