Diagnosis of Epilepsy
En Español (Spanish Version)

Your doctor will take a detailed history from you and observers to help determine if you have epilepsy . The history may include questions about:

  • Your past medical history
  • Family medical history
  • Any and all medications you take
  • Seizure patterns:
    • How were you feeling before the seizure?
    • How old were you at the onset of the condition?
    • Was there any warning?
    • What did the seizure look like, or what were you told it looked like?
    • Were there any symptoms after the seizure?
    • How long did the seizure last?
    • How many seizures have you had before?
    • After the seizure, did paralysis, twitches, confusion, slowed responsiveness, urine incontinence, or tongue biting occur?
Your doctor may perform a physical exam. Special attention will be given to your nervous system. Tests will be taken to see if you might have epilepsy, and if so, what type of seizures you have.

Placement of Sensors for an EEG

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Tests may include:

  • You may need to have your brain activity tested. This can be done with:
    • Electroencephalogram (EEG)—Best results are achieved when this test is performed within 24 hours of a seizure. Many times repetitive or continuous EEG monitoring may be needed.
    • Magnetoencephalogram (MEG)
  • You may need to have brain scans. These can be done with:
    • CT scan and MRI scan
    • PET scans
    • Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scan
    • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)
    • Angiography
    • Echoencephalogram—This test is most often used in infants.
  • You may need to have your blood tested. Blood tests check for possible causes of the seizures, including:
  • You may need to have your bodily fluids tested. This can be done with urine tests.
    • Urine tests
    • Lumbar puncture —to evaluate cerebrospinal fluid in the brain and spinal cord
  • You may need to have your motor abilities, behavior, and intellectual capacity tested. This can be done with:
    • Developmental tests
    • Neurological tests
    • Behavioral tests



References:
Berkow R. The Merck Manual of Medical Information. 17th ed. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster; 2000.

Epilepsy in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 18, 2013. Accessed February 22, 2013.

Epilepsy in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 19, 2012. Accessed February 22, 2013.

NINDS Epilepsy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/epilepsy.htm. Updated February 21, 2013. Accessed February 22, 2013.

What is epilepsy? Epilepsy Foundation website. Available at: http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/whatisepilepsy/index.cfm. Accessed February 22, 2013.

Last Reviewed March 2014



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