Bhavana Sharma, MD
When should I see a neurologist?
Neurologists are physicians who specialize in the conditions of brain, spine and nerves. We usually see patients referred to us by primary care providers. Most common referrals are for headaches, tremors, memory decline, unsteadiness/falls, tingling and numbness, weakness, neuropathy, seizure, MS, mini-stroke, and stroke.
What causes migraine headaches?
Migraine is a type of headache that is intense, usually one sided, associated with nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and sometimes a visual aura. Migraine is one of the most common reason for neurological referral. The cause of migraine is complex and involves several changes in the brain cortex, brain vessels, and trigeminal nerve. Most patients have a positive family history of migraine. Stress is the most common trigger, other triggers are lack of sleep/oversleeping, hunger, weather changes, menstrual cycle/hormonal changes, artificial sweeteners and poor dietary habits. Overuse of OTC pain medications and opiates can also cause or worsen the headaches.
Can you discuss sleep apnea? Is it a serious issue and how do you determine treatment?
There are two different types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central; however, some people have a combination of both. Obesity is the most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea. Cardiac conditions like heart failure can cause central sleep apnea, as well. Sleep apnea is a serious issue because it can increase the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Patients with sleep apnea are not able to get a good amount of oxygen during the sleep and have excess of CO2. They have fragmented sleep, are tired/ fatigued in the morning and have daily headaches. It can make diabetes and hypertension difficult to control and can worsen depression.
Treatment is based on an overnight sleep study, which basically tells us about the type and severity of sleep apnea. During the sleep study, CPAP sleep devices can be tested, adjusted and then prescribed by sleep clinic providers.
Are there warning signs of certain neurological issues that the public should be aware of? What are they?
There are certain warning symptoms of acute stroke or mini stroke (TIA) everyone should be aware of. These are sudden onset one sided weakness and/or numbness/lack of sensations, gait imbalance/falls, sudden loss of vision, facial drooping, slurred speech, inability to talk or make words together, and sensation of head spinning.
There are warning signs of brain bleed everyone should know. These are similar to symptoms of stroke along with a severe headache usually described as the worst headache of one’s life.
What can I do to stay healthy from a neurological standpoint?
The best way to prevent and slow down the progression of most of the neurological diseases is a healthy lifestyle. This includes a healthy diet low in carbohydrates, regular exercise, meditation and regular sleep. Healthy lifestyles also help reduce stress, weight management, better control of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and lowers the risk of stroke.