How is Epilepsy Diagnosed?

Diagnosing epilepsy is quite complex and is not always very clear-cut. The steps that go into the diagnosis include a thorough examination, a look at the patient’s medical history, tests, and ruling out other conditions. While having a seizure does not necessarily mean you have epilepsy, if you do have a seizure, it is vital to seek medical attention.

Getting Prepared for Your Doctor’s Visit

It is important to provide your doctor with as much detailed information about your seizure as possible. It is also a sound idea to bring someone who was there during your seizure for more information. Here are some pertinent questions you should be ready to answer during your doctor’s visit:

  • What time did your seizure occur?
  • What position were you in before the seizure?
  • What activity were you taking part in before the seizure?
  • How long did the seizure last?
  • What was your level of consciousness during the seizure?
  • What were the effects of the seizure on the body?
  • What parts of the body were affected by the seizure?

There are some additional questions that your doctor may need to ask you to establish your medical history and get a clearer picture to reach an accurate diagnosis. These questions may pertain to your family history, sleeping patterns, alcohol and/or drug use, and whether you have incurred any recent head injuries or had an infection, both of which could trigger a seizure.

Tests for Epilepsy

There are various tests that can be used to detect brain activity as epilepsy occurs due to irregular electrical impulses in nerve cells in the brain. There are common ways your brain activity and structure may be tested and imaged: an EEG and an MRI. An EEG, which stands for electroencephalography, is used to translate brain activity to waves doctors can make sense of to detect any irregularities.

An MRI, which stands for magnetic resonance imaging, provides your doctor with a full-blown image of your brain which helps them determine whether your seizure is the result of scar tissue, a stroke, or tumor. Following your tests, if you indeed have the condition, you are typically referred to a neurologist–a doctor whose specialty is brain disorders.

Your neurologist becomes your primary epilepsy physician and chooses the appropriate treatment option to control and prevent seizures. In cases where anti-seizure drugs prove to be ineffective, you may also be referred to an epileptologist–a neurologist whose sole focus is epilepsy–for more advanced treatment options.

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