MSD Manual

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Medical History in Neurologic Disorders

By

Mark Freedman

, MD, MSc, University of Ottawa

Reviewed/Revised Aug 2023
VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION

Before doing a physical examination, doctors interview the person to obtain information about the person's current and past health (medical history). The history is the most important part of the neurologic evaluation.

  • What the symptoms are like precisely

  • Where and how often they occur

  • How severe they are

  • How long they last

  • What makes symptoms worse

  • What relieves symptoms

  • Whether daily activities can still be done

Doctors often ask the person to describe the order in which symptoms occur. This information can help doctors identify the cause. Keeping a record of when symptoms occur in a diary can help the person remember and report more accurately.

The person is also asked about past and present illnesses and past operations, serious illnesses in close blood relatives, allergies, and drugs currently being taken. Questions about work, social contacts, and travel may be asked to find out whether the person has been exposed to unusual infections or toxins.

In addition, doctors may ask whether the person has had work-related or home-related difficulties, such as loss of a job or a death in the family, because such circumstances may affect the person’s health and ability to cope with illness.

Other questions are asked to identify any symptoms that the person may have overlooked or thought unimportant when describing the main problem. If doctors suspect an autonomic nervous system disorder Overview of the Autonomic Nervous System The autonomic nervous system regulates certain body processes, such as blood pressure and the rate of breathing. This system works automatically (autonomously), without a person’s conscious... read more Overview of the Autonomic Nervous System , they ask the person about symptoms such as reduced or absent sweating, flushing, blurry vision, and problems with bowel and bladder control.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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