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 historyFamily medical historyAny and all medications you take
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.
You may need to have brain scans. These can be done with:
MRI scanPositron emission tomography (PET) scansSingle photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scanMagnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)AngiographyEchoencephalogram—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:
Metabolic disorders, such as abnormal blood levels of sugar, calcium, sodium, potassium, or magnesiumGenetic disorders
Infections, such as
You may need to have your bodily fluids tested. This can be done with urine tests.
Urine testsLumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap
You may need to have your motor abilities, behavior, and intellectual capacity tested. This can be done with:
Developmental testsNeurological testsBehavioral tests
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:
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 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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