One of our goals at Houston Methodist is to communicate well with our patients, so encouraging your questions and providing satisfactory answers is one way we engage you in your treatment. We provide this list to help answer some of the most commonly asked questions on neurological disorders. 

You can also explore specific neurological conditions, symptoms and treatments by visiting these individual sites: 

What does a Neurologist Treat?
Neurologists treat disorders of the nervous system, brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles.

What does a Neurosurgeon Treat?
A neurosurgeon also treats disorders of the nervous system, brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles, using surgical techniques in conjunction with non-surgical practices.

What are Neurological Disorders?
Neurological disorders are diseases of the brain, spine and nerves; there are more than 600 diseases of the nervous system, such as brain tumors, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson's disease and stroke.

What are Common Neurological Disorders?

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also called ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Brain Tumors
  • Cerebrovascular Diseases
  • Epilepsy
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Neuromuscular Diseases
  • Peripheral Nerve Disorders
  • Sleep Disor ders
  • Spinal Disorders
  • Stroke
  • Tremors

How do you Treat Neurological Disorders?
The treatment is different for each condition. To discover the appropriate treatment options, neurologists will perform and interpret tests of your brain and nervous system.

What is a Neurological Examination Like?
Your neurologist will review your patient health history, paying special attention to the condition that you are currently experiencing. Then you will have an examination, which typically tests your vision, strength, coordination, memory, reasoning and puzzle-solving abilities, reflexes and ability to feel physical objects, smell odors and hear sounds. The results of your test will help your neurologist determine if your problem stems from the brain or nervous system. You may need further tests to confirm a diagnosis or determine which treatment is best for you.

What are the Signs of Stroke?
When it comes to a stroke, the best way to determine whether someone is having one is to think F.A.S.T.
  • Face. Does the face look uneven? Ask the person to smile.
  • Arms. Does one arm drift down? Ask the person to raise both arms.
  • Speech. Does their speech sound strange? Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase.
  • Time. If you observe any of these signs, it is time to call 911.

What are Options for Treating Stroke?
The best way to treat a stroke is to avoid it in the first place. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke, so we would treat hypertension with medications and possibly with anticoagulants if we discovered a patient had a problem with blood clots. Lifestyle changes are important to prevent a stroke; stopping smoking, eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise and proper sleep and eliminating stress can all contribute to avoiding stroke.

What are Surgical Options for Treating Stroke?
For example, in the case of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), our neurosurgeons will take images of your brain and review them and possibly perform an angiogram (blood flow measurement with imaging) to determine which arteries in your brain are narrowed or blocked and may need surgical intervention. They may choose to recommend an angioplasty (vein enlargement) with a stent (inserting a mesh tube to keep the vein expanded) or bypass surgery to graft a new vein to provide flow around a blocked artery. You would normally be able to leave the hospital within a day or two.

What is the Difference between Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease?
The term dementia refers to a set of symptoms, not a specific disease. Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior; it is the most common form of dementia.

Is there a Test to Determine if I’m Susceptible to Alzheimer’s Disease?
The short answer is no. Apolipoprotein E gene variants (APOE4) may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease, but although genetic tests for (also called mutations or alleles) are available, having an abnormal APOE4 gene does not mean you will get the disease and many people who develop the disease have a normal APOE4 gene.

Will I Develop Dementia because I have a Family History of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging and although several genes such as APOE have been linked to the disease, genetic testing will not predict whether you will develop it.

Is all Dementia the Same as Alzheimer’s Disease?
While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, other conditions may also cause dementia. Parkinson’s disease, normal pressure hydrocephalus and other conditions can cause dementia and many of them can be treated effectively.

Are Certain Substances the Cause of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Certain substances (beta-amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles of tau protein) are found in autopsied brains of Alzheimer’s patients, but they may be a by-product of the disease rather than the cause.

How is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?
Although a definitive diagnosis can only be made after death through autopsy, we will perform a medical examination and look for behavioral changes to diagnose suspected Alzheimer’s disease.

Where can I have Suspected Alzheimer’s Disease Assessed?
The Nantz National Alzheimer Center (NNAC) at Houston Methodist is a world-renowned referral center; our experienced, multidisciplinary team of specialists sees thousands of patients with cognitive disorders every year.

How do I Know if my Headache is a Migraine?
A migraine is often a disabling and recurring headache that frequently occurs only on one side of the head. You may experience pulsing or throbbing sensations in one area of your head, as well as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light or sound. A tension headache is a mild, dull pressure without other symptoms. A cluster headache can deliver a severe, “stabbing” pain behind one eye and may be accompanied by congestion in your sinuses.

How do I Know if I have had a Concussion?
A concussion starts with a blow or injury to the head or a fall or other mishap that may cause your head to be shaken violently. Symptoms of a concussion include problems with thinking clearly and remembering, unusual changes in moods and emotions, alterations in sleep patterns and physical symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, headache, blurred vision, light and noise sensitivity and balance and dizziness problems.

How is a Brain Tumor Different from a Pituitary Tumor?
Pituitary tumors are almost always benign, grow slowly and do not spread to other tissues (metastasize); the pituitary is a hormone-producing gland located under your brain and is served by nerves from the brain, but not made up of nervous tissue like the brain. The expert neurosurgeons at the Kenneth R. Peak Center for Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment and Research are experienced with managing patients with pituitary tumors.

Are all Pituitary Tumor Symptoms the Same?
Pituitary tumors can cause different patients to experience different symptoms. The tumor may grow large enough to press on other brain structures like the optic nerve, causing problems with sight. Pituitary gland tumors (almost always noncancerous adenomas) may also secrete additional amounts of a hormone usually secreted by the gland; this can cause symptoms characteristic of that hormone even if the tumor does not grow large.

How Risky is Pituitary Tumor Removal?
This type of surgery was once highly invasive and risky, but today our neurosurgeons can usually go in through your nose and remove the tumor in a procedure that lasts a few hours without any incision; you may even go home the next day. If the tumor is large or cannot be reached through the nose, the pituitary can be reached via a small hole in the skull by using the natural crevices (open spaces between structures) in your brain.

What are the Treatment Options for a Brain Tumor (such as a Medulloblastoma)?
The expert neurosurgeons at the Kenneth R. Peak Center are experienced with diagnosis and with all the treatment options for brain tumors: our team would surgically remove as much of the tumor as possible and use advanced radiotherapy and chemotherapy (including new protocols in clinical trials) to eradicate the remaining tumor.

What if I have a Brain Tumor that is Benign and does not Spread?
Our neurologists and neurosurgeons will discover if the tumor is causing you other problems and if it is, we will determine the size and location of the tumor and involve you in making a specific treatment plan. Although many types of tumor are benign and do not metastasize (such as an acoustic neuroma), we may recommend removing the tumor to keep it from pressing on other brain structures which might cause vision problems or uncontrollable nausea and vomiting.

What are the Treatment Options for Brain Tumors that are Deep in the Brain like a Primary CNS Lymphoma?
We would use brain imaging to determine the extent of tumor and work with a neurosurgeon to take a biopsy of your tumor to confirm the diagnosis. We may start with steroids to reduce brain swelling. When surgical removal is not possible, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the primary treatments.

Can you Help Control Constant or Recurring Pain?
Yes we can. Pain condition management is one of our areas of expertise at Houston Methodist. Our specialists will first determine the underlying cause of your pain and then treat that cause if possible. If the pain is from a neurological condition that cannot be resolved, we will suggest a range of medications (like analgesics, corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory agents) to alleviate the pain, as well as medical devices like a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit (TENS).

Can you Help with Pain that Cannot be Controlled by Medication?
For symptoms we may not be able to control by medication (such as complex regional pain syndrome), we can recommend several options to alleviate the pain. One option would be to cut the specific nerve causing your pain where it emerges from the spinal cord or to implant an electronic device that will overstimulate the spinal cord in a specific way that makes it unable to transmit the abnormal pain signal.

As another example, trigeminal neuralgia and Bell’s palsy are two conditions that cause facial pain. Bell’s palsy can be treated with corticosteriods and surgery is rarely recommended. The first course of treatment for trigeminal neuralgia would be medications (anticonvulsants and antispasmodics), but if that does not alleviate the pain, we would recommend surgical options that include removing or relocating the blood vessels that are putting pressure on the nerve, gamma knife radiosurgery to damage the nerve or several other techniques which damages the nerve.

Can you Help with Abnormal Movements that Medication No Longer Controls?
Botox® injections (botulinum toxin) can help alleviate focal dystonias, but if your movement disorder is more generalized they are less useful. We may be able to help with techniques such as deep brain stimulation (DBS) that uses surgically implanted electrodes and a pulse generator to control dystonia, essential tremor or Parkinson’s disease. We may also recommend severing the abnormal nerve pathways to eliminate or lessen unwanted movements.
Treatment Locations
Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in neurological disorders at the following convenient locations.