Common Questions About Neurological Conditions 

At Houston Methodist, our goal is to support you throughout your care journey and help you engage with your care. Get answers to frequently asked questions about neurological disorders, as well as our services and advanced treatments. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Neurology

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 treats disorders of the nervous system, brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles using surgical techniques in conjunction with nonsurgical 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.

How are neurological disorders treated?

Since no two conditions are the same, our neurologists use a wide range of diagnostic tools and evaluations to determine the best treatment options for you. Browse conditions and treatments.

What happens during a neurological exam?

Your neurologist will review your health history and ask questions about the symptoms you’re currently experiencing.  

You will then have a physical exam to assess your vision, strength, coordination, memory, reasoning and problem-solving abilities, reflexes and ability to feel physical objects, smell odors and interpret 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 testing to confirm a diagnosis or determine which treatment is best for you.


What are the signs of stroke?

The best way to determine whether someone is having a stroke or not is to think FAST:


  • Face: Ask the person to smile — does the face look uneven? 
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms — does one arm drift down? 
  • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase — does their speech sound strange? 
  • Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately. 

How can I reduce my risk of stroke?

High blood pressure (also knows as hypertension) is a leading cause of stroke, so we treat it with medications and, possibly, anticoagulants if we discover a patient has a problem with blood clots.  

Lifestyle changes are also important in preventing stroke, so quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise and adequate sleep, and eliminating stress can all contribute to avoiding a stroke.

What are the surgical options for treating stroke?

There are several types of surgical treatments for stroke, depending on the type of stroke and how recently it occurred. Houston Methodist neurosurgeons can perform intricate surgeries to remove blood clots, repair brain aneurysms and stop bleeding in the brain. Explore types of stroke surgeries.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

What is the difference between Alzheimer's disease and dementia?

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, and is the most common form of dementia.

Is there a test to determine if I’m at risk for Alzheimer’s disease?

The short answer is no. Apolipoprotein E gene variants (APOE4) may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Although genetic tests are available, having an abnormal APOE4 gene does not mean you will develop the disease. In fact, many people who develop Alzheimer’s disease have a normal APOE4 gene.

Will I develop dementia because I have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease?

Although several genes such as APOE have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, genetic testing will not predict whether you will develop it.

Can certain substances cause Alzheimer’s disease?

While substances such as beta-amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles of tau protein are found in the brains of patients who had Alzheimer’s disease, these substances may be a byproduct of the disease rather than the cause.

How is Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed?

Our neurologists can perform a medical exam to look for behavioral changes to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. However, a definitive diagnosis can only be made after death through autopsy.

Where do you evaluate and treat Alzheimer’s disease?

The Nantz National Alzheimer Center at Houston Methodist is a world-renowned referral center. Our experienced, multidisciplinary team of specialists sees thousands of patients with cognitive disorders every year. 

Headaches and Migraines

What is the difference between a headache and a migraine?

A tension headache is characterized by 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. 

A migraine, however, is characterized by severe recurring headaches that frequently affect only 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.


What are the symptoms of 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: 


  • Cognition and memory issues  
  • Unusual changes in mood and emotions 
  • Sleep pattern changes  
  • Physical symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, headache, blurred vision, light and noise sensitivity, and balance and dizziness 

Pituitary Tumor

How is a brain tumor different from a pituitary tumor?

Pituitary tumors are almost always benign, grow slowly and do not metastasize, or spread to other tissues. The pituitary gland is a hormone-producing gland located under the brain. It is served by nerves from the brain but is 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 diagnosing and managing pituitary and brain tumors. 

What symptoms are caused by pituitary tumors?

Pituitary tumors may grow large enough to press on other brain structures like the optic nerve and cause problems with sight.  

Pituitary tumors, which are almost always noncancerous adenomas, may secrete extra hormones. This can cause symptoms characteristic of that hormone even if the tumor does not grow larger. 

What should I expect with pituitary tumor surgery?

Our neurosurgeons can access and remove most pituitary tumors through the nose in a procedure that lasts a few hours. This surgery requires no incisions, reducing the risk of bleeding or infection and speeding recovery time.

If the tumor is large or cannot be reached through the nose, the neurosurgeon will remove it by making a small hole in the skull through the natural crevices between structures in your brain. 

Brain Tumor

What are treatment options for brain tumors?

The expert neurosurgeons at the Kenneth R. Peak Center for Brain and Pituitary Tumor Treatment and Research are experienced with the diagnosis and treatment options for brain tumors.  

When surgery is appropriate, we will remove as much of the tumor as possible through surgery, followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy. Our neurologists and researchers drive leading-edge clinical trials, which offer advanced treatments not widely available at other centers. Explore brain tumor treatment options

What happens if a brain tumor is benign and does not spread?

Although many types of brain tumors are benign and do not metastasize, we may recommend removing the tumor to keep it from pressing on other brain structures, which might cause vision problems or nausea and vomiting. 

Pain Management

Can you help control constant or recurring pain?

Pain condition management is one of our areas of expertise. Our specialists will determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and develop a personalized treatment plan to improve your quality of life.  

If the pain is from a neurological condition that cannot be resolved, we will suggest a range of medications, therapies and/or medical devices such as a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit (TENS) to reduce and control pain symptoms. 

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a condition in which nerves function irregularly, causing an overreaction to pain. For symptoms that cannot be controlled with frontline therapies, such as symptoms of CRPS, there are several options to alleviate the pain. One option would be to sever 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. 

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a condition that causes chronic, intense pain on one side of the face. The first course of treatment for TN is medication. If this does not alleviate the pain, however, surgical treatment may be appropriate.