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.
Doctors ask the person to describe all current symptoms but focus on those related to the nervous system (neurologic symptoms Introduction to Symptoms of Brain, Spinal Cord, and Nerve Disorders Disorders that affect the brain, spinal cord, and nerves are called neurologic disorders. Neurologic symptoms—symptoms caused by a disorder that affects part or all of the nervous system—can... read more ):
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 , they ask the person about symptoms such as reduced or absent sweating, flushing, blurry vision, and problems with bowel and bladder control.