Monday 19 August 2019

The toe scratch test that can reveal a lot about your brain health - Professor Niall Tubridy

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One of Ireland's leading neurologists Professor Niall Tubridy has shed some light on the types of tests a neurologists can perform when examining a patient's brain health.

Speaking to RTE's Seán O'Rourke yesterday, Niall said he uses a fascinating test called the Babinksi sign, which involves scratching toes.

"I've got a bit of a hard time for some patients when they come in with a headache and I start scratching at their feet. Basically when we're born, when you scratch a baby's toe, the toe will go up for the first year of their life," he explained.

"After the first year or so, they've laid down a nervous system like cables and whatever else, and you scratch their toe ... and their toe goes down.

"But when the nervous system may fall apart a little bit later on in life, you scratch the toe and it goes back up to the baby state. It's one of the most important signs in neurology."

Niall, who is RTE presenter Ryan Tubridy's brother, specialises in the treatment of and research into MS but he also deals with patients who have other neurological illnesses, like Parkinson's disease and motor neurone disease (MND).

He previously told the Sunday Independent that his work helps him to see the value of good health.

"I think it takes a toll but not as deleterious as you might think," he explains. "You value life more, you make sure you have a bit of fun when you can, you don't take yourself too seriously. You've got one turn at the proverbial merry-go-around. If you've told someone they're going to die, it stays with you that night. If you tell four or five people in the same day it can stay for you for weeks or even years."

He said that when he was starting out in medicine other doctors warned him off neurology because of how little could be done for patients in those years. He said that while treatments have advanced hugely there are unfortunately still some patients who can't be helped. 

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