Category: Dementia

7 Reasons to See a Neurologist

Human brain digital illustration. Electrical activity, flashes and lightning on a blue background.; blog: reasons to see a neurologist

 

Neurologists are doctors that have specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the nervous system. Your nervous system is made up of your brain, spinal cord, and nerves throughout your entire body. If you are experiencing symptoms that indicate a problem with your nervous system, your primary doctor will probably refer you to a neurologist. The following are all good reasons to see a neurologist.

1. Existing Neurological Disorders

The presence of a previously diagnosed neurological disorder is probably one of the most obvious reasons to see a neurologist. Even if your symptoms are well controlled, frequent monitoring may be needed. Conditions you might see a neurologist regularly for include

  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease 
  • History of stroke

2. Persistent Headaches

Most people experience headaches every now and then, but if you have frequent and persistent headaches, then that’s a good reason to see a neurologist. Headaches are a couple and different types of headaches have a multitude of causes. To make sure there is not a serious condition at the root of your headaches, a doctor should evaluate you.

3. Migraine

One coming type of headache that affects many people is a migraine. If you have frequent and persistent headaches accompanied by other symptoms, you may be suffering from migraines. Symptoms of migraine include:

  • Headache on one or both sides of the head
  • Headache that worsens with physical activity
  • Pain that is throbbing or pulsing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sensitivity to sounds
  • Sensitivity to smells

According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraine impacts over 37 million people in the United States and 144 million worldwide. If you have symptoms of migraine that your primary care provider is unable to treat, you should see a neurologist.

4. Blackouts

You can think of a blackout as a momentary glitch in the nervous system. During a blackout, the individual is unaware of what is happening and goes into a trance-like state. Sometimes a person will thrash around as if having a seizure during a blackout. Other times they will be motionless and unresponsive. If you experience blackouts frequently, then you should seek attention from a neurologist.

5. Seizures

If you have a seizure but have not been diagnosed with a seizure disorder like epilepsy, you need to see a neurologist. While many types of epilepsy are present during infancy and childhood, there is such a thing as adult-onset epilepsy. A seizure can also be a symptom of another condition such as meningitis or a brain tumor.

6. Dizziness

Dizziness, or vertigo, is the sensation that the world is spinning around you. Or it may seem like you are spinning around while the world is standing still. Vertigo can be life-altering because it prevents you from carrying out daily tasks like going to work and caring for your family. While vertigo may resolve itself after a while, you should still see a neurologist to have the underlying condition diagnosed. Many of the causes are not life-threatening, but they share symptoms with more serious conditions like stroke. Some conditions that are linked to vertigo and dizziness include

  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
  • Meniere’s disease 
  • Vestibular neuritis/labyrinthitis
  • Vestibular migraine

7. Neuropathy 

Peripheral neuropathy, usually just called neuropathy, is the name given to a group of conditions that affect the body’s peripheral nerves. The peripheral nervous system connects the central nervous system, made up of the brain and spinal cord, to the rest of the body. Neuropathy can take many forms, including:

  • Chronic pain
  • Difficulty balancing
  • Poor coordination
  • Burning sensations
  • Numbness, weakness, or tingling in the affected body part
  • Paralysis 

There is a long list of conditions that can cause neuropathy, ranging from autoimmune disease to vitamin deficiencies. One type of neuropathy many people have heard of is diabetic neuropathy, due to how common diabetes is in the US.

Make an Appointment to See a Neurologist

If you have a diagnosed neurological disorder or one of the above symptoms, it’s time to make an appointment to see a neurologist. The dedicated team of professionals at Regional Neurological Associates has advanced training in diagnosing and treating neurological disorders so you can feel confident you are getting expert care. To make an appointment, call (718) 515-4347.

Living with Alzheimer’s: How to Enjoy the Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Grandma, grandpa, mum and child exchanging gifts. Parents and daughters having fun near tree indoors. Loving family with presents in room; blog: Living with Alzheimer’s: How to Enjoy the Holidays

 

Families who are affected by Alzheimer’s know all too well how the disease seeps into every aspect of life. The holidays are no exception to this rule. A time that is usually full of fun and festive joy may be stressful or even a bit sad. Family members may look back on the past holiday seasons they spent together and feel a sense of loss. Caregivers are often given more responsibility to accommodate visitors and activities. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, so people need to know that they can still enjoy the holidays by following these tips.

1. Plan Ahead

Many people affected by Alzheimer’s disease will have certain times during the day where they are in the best frame of mind to interact with others. Plan any visits or gatherings around that time and try not to disrupt their usual schedule. Routine is important when living with dementia.

If there are things you want to get out and do, or parties you want to have, but necessary plans in place. Alzheimer’s can be unpredictable, but if you are a caregiver, you know better than anyone what to expect from your loved one. 

2. Communicate Effectively

If you’re having a family gathering, keep attendees updated on their loved one’s state of mind and behavior. This can help manage their expectations before they come to visit. The family member living with Alzheimer’s disease may have also changed in appearance since the last visit, so sharing recent photos might also be a good idea.

Give family and friends tips on how to communicate most effectively. Encourage them to be patient as they listen and resist the urge to interrupt or correct things. Advise them not to get frustrated or comment on any repeated questions or stories from the family member with Alzheimer’s.

3. Be Flexible

Remember what we just said about planning? Do it, but don’t be surprised if plans have to be altered. Be flexible enough to not let a change in plans derail your whole day. Living with Alzheimer’s can be unpredictable. 

4. Focus on Meaningful Activities

Because you might get to do all the things you want, make sure you prioritize what’s most important. Try to stick to simple things that bring joy like decorating cookies, reading a favorite book aloud, or watching an old Christmas movie. 

5. Keep Gatherings Small

Big crowds, even if they’re full of faces that were once familiar, can be overwhelming to someone living with Alzheimer’s. Keep holiday gatherings small and intimate so everyone is comfortable and relaxed. 

6. Celebrate in a Familiar Setting

Changes in the environment can cause distress and confusion for people with dementia. If the individual lives in a care facility, then ask if you can use a room there for a small family celebration. The facility might also have activities planned for residents that you can participate in. 

If the individual lives in your home, then choose the space there that is most familiar and comfortable for them to be in for any holiday gatherings. It’s also a good idea to have a quiet space where the family member with Alzheimer’s disease can go to be alone or have one-on-one visits. 

Playing familiar holiday music may also help put individuals with Alzheimer’s at ease and create a festive, yet calm, environment. Just make sure it’s not too loud and startling.

7. Don’t Go Crazy with Decorations

Everyone loves the festive cheer of a decorated house or care facility. However, big displays that require rearranging things can confuse people with dementia who may not recognize a once-familiar setting when it’s altered. Blinking lights and cluttered surfaces may also confuse and should be avoided.

8. Keep Visits and Outings Brief

If you have visitors, have them come in on different days and make sure they keep their visits on the short side. Similarly, if you plan on going somewhere for a holiday celebration, make it brief. Be prepared to leave early if needed. 

9. Don’t Schedule Too Much

Make sure you and your loved ones get downtime to rest and recharge. Dealing with Alzheimer’s during the holidays can be trying for everyone, so it’s important not to commit to more than you can handle. After all, the holidays should bring some joy to everyone involved.

Make an Appointment at Regional Neurological Associates

The physicians at Regional Neurological Associates are all board-certified neurologists with experience in treating a variety of disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. If you have questions or concerns about neurological health, including living with dementia during the holidays, call (718) 515-4347 to make an appointment.

9 Neurological Disorders You Need to Know

Human brain digital illustration. Electrical activity, flashes and lightning on a blue background; blog: 9 Neurological Disorders You Need to Know

 

Due to the complexity of the brain and central nervous system, neurological disorders can seem like a mystery. There are numerous types of diseases and disorders related to neurological health, and a variety of factors that can lead to each condition. If you’re curious about conditions that can affect the brain and central nervous system, here are nine neurological disorders you need to know about.

1. Stroke

A stroke is an interruption or reduction of blood flow to the brain. When the blood supply is limited or stopped, then the brain tissue does not get enough oxygen and other nutrients carried in the blood. Within minutes of a stroke beginning, brain cells will begin to die, causing damage and potentially permanent complications. It is crucial for a stroke patient to get immediate medical attention to minimize those complications.

A person having a stroke may experience trouble with speaking and comprehension, headache, difficulty walking, paralysis (in the face, arm, or leg), or vision problems. Catching these symptoms early is important so treatment can be given as soon as possible. 

2. Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system in which abnormal brain activity causes seizures or other periods of unusual behaviors and sensations. Sometimes people with epilepsy experience a loss of awareness of their surroundings during a seizure or episode. The condition may be controlled or managed with medications and surgery.

3. Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system (CNS) in which the body’s immune system attacks the CNS. The protective myelin sheaths covering the nerve fibers are damaged, causing communication issues between the brain and the body. There is no cure for MS but some patients respond well to treatments to preserve their quality of life. People with MS experience a wide variety of symptoms including loss of balance, difficulty walking and difficulty with muscle coordination. They may also go through periods where symptoms are in remission. 

4. Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement. The disease affects a part of the brain called the substantia nigra, where there is a loss of dopaminergic neurons. Symptoms usually develop gradually as the disease progresses. Tremors are a common symptom that may present as shaking in the hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head. Patients may also experience limb stiffness, difficulty with balance or walking, slowed movement, and decreased coordination. Parkinson’s disease cannot be cured or reversed, but there are many treatments that are tailored to each patient’s symptoms. Medications and surgical therapy are common treatments, and sometimes lifestyle changes can improve symptoms.

5. Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy, commonly referred to as just neuropathy, is a group of conditions related to damage to the peripheral nerves and the symptoms that damage produces. The peripheral nervous system is the network of nerves that connects the CNS to the rest of the body. Symptoms vary and range in severity from mild to disabling, but they are rarely life-threatening. A person with neuropathy may experience chronic pain, lack of coordination, or tingling, weakness, or numbness in the area of the damaged nerve, as well as other symptoms.

6. Dementia

Dementia is the term for a group of brain conditions that impair a person’s ability to think, reason, and remember things. In some cases, language skills, the ability to manage emotions, and perception are also impaired. 

Dementia often develops gradually, but in certain cases it may appear suddenly. Sudden onset is usually associated with severe head trauma. Common types of dementia include Alzheimer’s Disease, vascular dementia (caused by strokes or cerebrovascular disease), and Lewy body disease.

There is no cure for most types of dementia, but the effects of dementia caused by infections or vitamin deficiencies may be reversed with treatment. It is estimated that up to half of people 85 and older experience some form of dementia. 

7. Psychiatric and Neurobehavioral Disorders

These disorders are related to the connection between the brain and behavior. Neurobehavioral disorders are impairments associated with brain diseases like multiple sclerosis, stroke, and dementia or brain injury. Psychiatric disorders are associated with abnormal functions of the part of the brain responsible for social cognition. Historically, the study and treatment of these disorders were separate, but today doctors embrace a connection between the two in order to better treat and diagnose a wide range of conditions affecting the brain.

8. Vertigo

Vertigo is a sensation of dizziness. People who experience vertigo sometimes describe it as either feeling like you’re spinning while your surroundings stay still or the feeling that the world around you is spinning and you are standing still. Vertigo is a symptom of a number of conditions including Meniere’s disease, vestibular migraine, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Vertigo can either resolve on its own or be treated based on the underlying cause.

9. Headaches

Headaches and migraines are common neurological disorders that many people are affected by. A headache is defined as pain in any region of the head. There are several different types of headaches with a range of causes and symptoms. Common types of headache pain include sharp pain, throbbing, or aching.

Migraines area type of headache that can be quite severe and incapacitating. Along with head pain, people suffering from migraines may experience nausea, light and noise sensitivity. Symptoms may worsen when moving or bending over. Symptoms can last for several hours or even several days. When someone has more days with a migraine than without one, then they are considered to have chronic migraines.

Make an Appointment

At Regional Neurological Associates, we are committed to providing our patients with expert care for all types of neurological conditions. Our experienced doctors are highly trained in a variety of subspecialties including migraine headaches, stroke, and pain management. If you have questions or concerns about any of these neurological disorders, call us at (718) 515-4347 to make an appointment.

Can Dementia Be Prevented?

Can Dementia Be Prevented? ; cropped view of retired man playing with puzzles on table

One of the questions we receive the most is ‘Can dementia be prevented?’

As with many neurological conditions affecting the brain, research is still relatively new and not completely understood in this field as long-term effects have not been seen yet. However, there has been a large push over the course of the last 20 years to better understand the human brain and the conditions that afflict it. 

Much of the research to date has focused on different factors such as genetics, lifestyle and trauma that may predispose individuals to develop dementia at some point during their lifespan. Unfortunately, at this time, the vast majority of the causes of dementia cannot be cured. However, research continues to develop in the areas of drugs, vaccines and other medical treatments. 

Ways to Reduce Your Risk

Age and genetics play a key role in an individual developing this dementia, but there are controllable factors that may reduce one’s risk and aid in prevention.

1. Diet

The brain, like all other organs in the body, responds to the diet humans consume based on the nutritional value it contains. For those who eat many processed foods that are high in fat and sugars, the body as a whole and the brain do not receive the nutrients needed for long-term sustainability.

By eating unsaturated fats and more leafy greens, one can help to preserve brain health. Additionally, incorporating more fish and omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to help preserve brain function.

2. Exercise

Regular physical activity, especially in the aerobic capacity, helps with oxygen delivery and blood flow to the brain. This keeps function high and helps to maintain brain mass in areas that control vital functions such as memory and learning. 

In addition to these benefits, exercise helps to preserve motor control function. This keeps the central nervous functioning at a high level through a feedback loop that incorporates sensory and motor skills.

3. Person-To-Person Contact

Those who engage in regular communication with others have been shown to have higher levels of brain activity and better retention of brain mass later in life. This is especially important for older individuals who may be living alone without family. For this population, it is especially important to get out and engage with other community members in order to maintain stimulation.

4. Continue Challenging The Mind

There is a saying that “learning never stops” and for those looking to prevent or minimize dementia, this is especially true. By keeping the brain engaged in learning or tasks such as reading or crossword puzzles, brain activity and acuity is kept sharp throughout life.

By taking on small educational projects, one can greatly help their chances of maintaining a high level of function later in life. 

5. Avoid Trauma

While this may be difficult for many, especially former and active service members, avoiding trauma to the brain is a proven way to help preserve brain function and memory later in life. For athletes, it is important to use protective headgear when applicable and practice proper techniques. 

While it is not possible to completely prevent dementia in all people, practicing the techniques listed here are a great way to minimize risk. If you or a loved one is experiencing any degree of memory loss, it is advised to seek medical counsel from a neurologist immediately. 

If you or someone you love is experiencing memory difficulties or other changes in thinking skills, call Regional Neurological Associates at (718) 515-4347 to schedule a professional evaluation by one of our experienced physicians. As with many conditions involving the brain, a timely diagnosis may impact treatment results.