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Brain & Nervous System

How Epilepsy is Diagnosed

In order to diagnose epilepsy, your physician will certainly need to verify that you’ve had 2 or even more unprovoked seizures and then find out what type of seizures they were. This can involve a neurological test as well as a selection of tests, one of the most common of which is an electroencephalogram (EEG).



In order to diagnose epilepsy, your physician will certainly need to verify that you’ve had 2 or even more unprovoked seizures and then find out what type of seizures they were. This can involve a neurological test as well as a selection of tests, one of the most common of which is an electroencephalogram (EEG). Other tests might consist of blood examinations, a computerized tomography (CT) check, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and a positron emission tomography (PET DOG). It is necessary for your medical professional to precisely detect what type of seizures you’re having and also where they begin in order to find one of the most reliable treatment.

Physical Exam/Medical History

Your medical professional will begin by examining your clinical and also family history to see if seizures run in your family and also inquiring about the signs you have actually experienced.
Diagnosing epilepsy can be difficult since your doctor more than likely will not witness you having a seizure. It aids if you maintain a thorough history, consisting of:

– What you were doing prior to your seizure began.
– Just how you really felt in the past, throughout (if you keep in mind anything), and also after.
– The length of time the seizure lasted.
– Anything that may have activated it.
– Specifics concerning any type of sensations, sensations, preferences, seems, or aesthetic sensation.

Obtain thorough descriptions from anyone that’s observed your seizures. Eyewitness accounts are invaluable in diagnosing epilepsy.
You will possibly additionally have a physical examination to ensure that your physician can inspect to see if there’s an underlying clinical condition that’s causing your seizures. If you currently have a chronic clinical condition, make certain to let your physician understand about it because it might be adding.
Even if your underlying condition is not the reason, it might still interfere with any kind of anti-seizure medication your medical professional recommends by creating inadequate absorption or negative interactions.
You can utilize our Doctor Discussion Overview listed below to begin a conversation with your medical professional regarding your symptoms and also exactly how your seizures manifest.
Epilepsy Physician Discussion Overview.
Get our overview for your next doctor’s consultation to aid you ask the best questions.


Labs and Tests

Your doctor might buy a number of laboratories and tests to aid with a diagnosis.

Neurological Tests

In order to determine exactly how your seizures might be influencing you, your doctor may execute some neurological tests to analyze your behavior, along with your intellectual as well as motor abilities. This can likewise help establish what type of epilepsy you have.
A neurological exam may include testing your reflexes, equilibrium, muscle mass strength, coordination, and also your ability to feel.2 If you are diagnosed with epilepsy, your doctor will likely perform a short neurological examination each time you have an examination to see just how your drug is impacting you.

Blood Tests

You will likely have some blood tests, consisting of a detailed metabolic panel, to ensure that your kidneys, thyroid, as well as other organs are working effectively which they’re not the source of your seizures.
You might likewise have a complete blood count (CBC) done to look for infections. A blood test can also look at your DNA for hereditary conditions that might clarify your seizures.3.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

Since it’s feasible to be misdiagnosed with epilepsy when you really have a problem called syncope (see “Differential Medical diagnoses” listed below), your doctor might wish to do an electrocardiogram (ECG) to inspect your heart. An ECG can rule out a cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart beat) that might have created syncope.4.
An ECG is a quick and also painless examination that gauges and also records the electric task in your heart for several mins utilizing electrodes attached to your breast. Your physician can then tell if your heart is defeating frequently as well as whether it’s being functioned too tough.


Electroencephalogram (EEG)

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is one of the most common diagnostic tool medical professionals use for epilepsy since it gets abnormal brain waves.3 That claimed, an abnormal EEG merely supports a medical diagnosis of seizures; it can not rule them out considering that some people have normal brain waves in between seizures.
Others have uncommon mind activity even when they’re not having a seizure. Irregular brain waves may likewise be seen when you’ve had a stroke, head injury, or when you have a lump.
It can be useful to have an EEG within 1 day of having your initial seizure, if at all possible.
Your doctor might have you come in for your EEG very early in the early morning when you’re still drowsy or have you keep up late the evening before in order to increase the opportunity of tape-recording seizure activity.
For this procedure, electrodes are affixed to your scalp using a washable glue. The electrodes have wires linking them to an EEG machine, which tape-records your mind’s electrical activity, typically while you’re awake. The electrodes are merely for discovery and don’t conduct any power, so it’s a totally painless procedure. An EEG may last from 20 minutes to two hours, relying on your medical professional’s orders.
Brain waves are taped as squiggly lines called traces, as well as each trace represents a different location in your mind. Your neurologist is seeking patterns, called epileptiform, that reveal a propensity towards epilepsy. These can show up as spikes, sharp waves, or spike-and-wave discharges.
If uncommon task appears on your EEG, the trace can reveal where in your brain the seizure stemmed. For example, if you’re having generalized seizures, which implies they entail both sides of your brain, there will likely be spike-and-wave discharges spread throughout your brain. If you’re having focal seizures, implying that they involve simply one area of your mind, there will certainly be spikes or sharp waves because particular place.5.
Your physician might want you to have a high-density EEG rather than a timeless EEG. This just implies that the electrodes are placed more detailed with each other, which can assist identify extra accurately where in your brain your seizures are beginning.

Magnetoencephalography (MEG)

The nerve cells in your mind produce electrical currents that, consequently, create tiny magnetic fields that can be determined with magnetoencephalography (MEG).3 A MEG is usually done at the same time as an EEG or used with magnetic vibration imaging (MRI) as well as can be particularly helpful in identifying the area of your brain that your seizures are originating from.
Similar to an EEG, a MEG is non-invasive and also painless, making use of steel coils and sensors to determine your brain function. It may be extra exact than an EEG in identifying the location of your seizures since your head as well as the tissue surrounding your brain don’t hinder the readings, whereas they influence an EEG’s analyses. Nevertheless, both tests enhance one another because each may grab irregularities the various other does not.


Your medical professional may want to do one or more imaging tests of your mind to check for any kind of problems and also to identify where in your brain the seizures stem.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic vibration imaging (MRI) makes use of an electromagnetic field and radio waves to offer an in-depth photo of your mind and also is thought about the very best imaging technique for epilepsy because it’s specifically sensitive to detecting a range of seizure reasons. It can rule out architectural brain abnormalities and also lesions that may be causing your seizures, as well as locations that have developed extraordinarily and alters in your brain’s white issue.


Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

A computerized tomography (CT) check uses X-rays as well as can be made use of to discover obvious problems in your mind, such as hemorrhage, cysts, big lumps, or evident structural problems.3 A CT check may be utilized in the emergency room to rule out any conditions that require prompt treatment, yet an MRI is thought about more delicate and also usually made use of in non-emergency scenarios.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

When you have a PET DOG scan, a low dose of radioactive product is injected into your vein to videotape how your brain utilizes sugar. This check is usually carried out in between seizures to recognize any areas in your mind that aren’t metabolizing sugar well, an indication of the seizure’s origin. This examination is particularly valuable when you have focal seizures.7.

Single-Photon Emission Computerized Tomography (SPECT)

A single-photon discharge computerized tomography (SPECT) examination is a specific examination that’s usually only utilized if other tests haven’t been able to find where your seizures begin.3 When you have a seizure, even more blood streams to the area of your mind in which it stems.
A SPECT examination coincides as a CT check, other than that like a FAMILY PET check, you’re infused with a reduced dosage of contaminated product right before the scan itself is done. The contaminated material reveals the blood flow task in your mind, assisting to determine the beginning of your seizures.

Differential Diagnoses

Numerous other problems can look like a seizure problem, and your medical professional may require to rule them out before detecting you with epilepsy.



Syncope happens when you pass out due to an absence of blood circulation to the brain, which can cause your muscles to jerk or tense, similar to a seizure. Your body overreacts and also your high blood pressure as well as heart price plunge, causing you to pale. Once you’re resting, gravity allows the blood to return to your heart and also you restore awareness quickly.
It can be misdiagnosed as epilepsy, especially if no person experienced the event.
The most typical cause of syncope is vasovagal syncope. Also called the straightforward fainting spell or reflex syncope, this problem happens due to a neurological response that’s commonly set off by factors like discomfort, fright, an upsetting circumstance, tension, or the view of blood.
If your doctor suspects that vasovagal syncope is the reason for what appeared to be a seizure, you may have a tilt table test to assist identify it. In a tilt table examination, you rest on a table that’s slowly tilted upward into a standing placement while your blood pressure and heart price are kept track of to see just how they respond to gravity. This may cause you to faint.
Some individuals with vasovagal syncope have warning signs that they’re about to faint such as sweating, nausea, blurry vision, or weakness, however some people don’t.
Long QT syndrome can likewise create syncope. This an acquired problem of the heart electric system, which regulates the heart beat. People that have lengthy QT disorder can develop unexpected, unforeseen episodes of a strange variety of ventricular tachycardia, a possibly hazardous quick heart rhythm, that frequently results in sudden syncope as well as can also result in sudden heart attack. Lengthy QT syndrome, once diagnosed, can be efficiently dealt with.
There are other times when the syncope trigger is unidentified, but the episodes generally take place when you’re standing.
One distinction between a seizure and syncope is that when you awaken after syncope, you’re promptly sharp. With a seizure, you’re often drowsy and also dizzy for a few minutes or longer. It’s very uncommon to have both syncope and a seizure at the same time.

Transient Ischemic Attack

A short-term ischemic strike (TIA) is frequently referred to as a mini-stroke and also is far more likely in older grownups. Throughout a TIA, blood flow to your brain is momentarily obstructed and your signs may be similar to that of a stroke. However, unlike a stroke, it normally settles within a couple of mins with no enduring damage. A TIA may be a warning sign that you’re going to have a stroke in the future and constantly needs medical focus.10.
A TIA can be mistaken for a seizure. Periodically, individuals have shaky arm or legs during a TIA, though this isn’t usual. Both TIAs and a kind of seizure known as aphasic seizures can trigger aphasia (being incapable to talk or understand others). One distinction is that with a TIA, this takes place suddenly as well as doesn’t worsen, whereas in an aphasic seizure, it usually progresses.
Both TIA and also seizures can likewise trigger you to unexpectedly be up to the ground, which is called a decrease assault. If you’re an older grownup as well as you have actually never had a seizure previously, your doctor will likely check you to dismiss or confirm a TIA.


Both migraine headache and epilepsy include episodes of mind disorder and share some signs, including a headache, nausea or vomiting, throwing up, aesthetic aura, tingling, and also tingling. Having a personal or family history of migraine can be a big hint that aids your physician distinguish in between both worries.
While migraine is the hallmark symptom of a migraine, 45 percent of individuals with epilepsy obtain them after having a seizure as well, as well as the pain might really feel comparable to a migraine headache.12 In addition, as much as a third of individuals with migraine headache do not really feel head discomfort with at least several of their migraine headaches.
Many individuals with migraine headache have an aesthetic mood that lets them know a migraine headache is coming. Aesthetic mood can accompany epilepsy that comes from the occipital lobe of the mind, as well. Epileptic visual auras often tend to just last a couple of minutes though while migraine headache visual moods can last approximately a hr.13.
Somatosensory signs like feeling numb, prickling, pain, and feeling like several of your limbs are “asleep” can additionally occur in both epilepsy and migraine headache. Like aesthetic auras, they spread gradually and also can last for approximately an hour in migraine headache, whereas they begin rapidly as well as just last a couple of minutes with epilepsy.
Losing consciousness as well as motor task like muscle stiffening or jerking is very unusual in migraine headache, so these signs are far more most likely to be epilepsy. Confusion or sleepiness that lasts for time after an episode is more usual in epilepsy, yet it can occur in certain types of migraine headache, too.

Panic Attacks

If you’re prone to anxiety attack, you likely have an underlying anxiety disorder. Signs and symptoms of an anxiety attack are sweating, raised heart rate, a feeling of foreshadowing doom, upper body discomfort, lightheadedness, and shortness of breath.14 An anxiety attack can additionally result in shakiness and also tremblings. Seldom, the hyperventilation that usually goes along with an attack can create you to briefly lose consciousness. Every one of these can be misinterpreted for indications of a seizure.
Panic attacks are specifically likely to be misinterpreted for seizures when you aren’t feeling distressed or stressed before an assault happens. Seizures can likewise be mistaken for anxiety attack given that anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with epilepsy as well as fear can take place after a seizure, particularly in temporal wattle epilepsy.
One method to discriminate in between a panic attack and also a seizure is that an anxiety attack can last from minutes to hrs, whereas seizures take place suddenly and normally last less than 2 mins.
Motor automatisms like lip smacking or blinking, unresponsiveness, and also drowsiness after an episode are likewise not likely in a panic attack, however typical with seizures.


Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures

While psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) look much like regular seizures, there is no abnormal electrical brain task that connects them to epilepsy. The source of these seizures appears to be mental as opposed to physical, as well as they’re classified as a subtype of conversion disorder under the somatic symptoms as well as relevant disorders in the Diagnostic as well as Statistical Manual of Mental Illness, 5th edition (DSM-5).15 Video EEG monitoring is usually made use of to detect PNES.
There are several distinctions between epileptic seizures and psychogenic nonepileptic seizures:
Epileptic Seizures
– Typically last in between 1 to 2 mins.
– Eyes are usually open.
– Motor activity specifies.
– Vocalization is uncommon.
– Rapid heartbeat prevails.
– Blue tinge to the skin is common.
– Post-seizure signs and symptoms include sleepiness, complication, frustration.
– May be longer than 2 mins.
– Eyes are frequently shut.
– Motor activity varies.
– Articulation prevails.
– Quick heartbeat is unusual.
– Blue tint to the skin is rare.
– Post-seizure symptoms are very little and rapidly go away.

Narcolepsy With Cataplexy

Narcolepsy is a sleep problem that causes episodes of extreme drowsiness in which you may sleep for a couple of secs to a couple of minutes throughout the day. This can occur at any time, consisting of when you’re strolling, chatting, or driving. It’s rare, impacting an approximated 135,000 to 200,000 individuals in the United States.16.
When you have narcolepsy with cataplexy, called kind 1 narcolepsy, you additionally experience abrupt partial or complete loss of muscle tone that can result in slurred speech, misshapen knees, as well as even falls. This can be mistaken for an atonic seizure, which likewise triggers you to lose muscle tone.
One method to distinguish in between the two is that cataplexy typically takes place after you’ve experienced a solid emotion, like laughter, anxiety, shock, rage, stress and anxiety, or exhilaration. Your physician can do a rest study and a multiple sleep latency examination (MSLT) to diagnose narcolepsy.

Paroxysmal Movement Disorders

There are numerous paroxysmal motion disorders that may resemble epilepsy as a result of the spontaneous twitching, agonizing, or repeated movements that can occur at different times.
The root cause of these disorders isn’t comprehended, however they can occur for no reason, run in your family, or take place when you have an additional problem such as numerous sclerosis (MS), stroke, or a terrible mind injury. Anti-seizure medicine can be useful for sure sorts of these disorders and also they’re usually detected based on your background as well as perhaps a video-monitored EEG.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

The medical diagnosis of epilepsy begins with a physical examination and also an evaluation of your symptoms and also case history. If your signs and symptoms are consistent with that of a seizure, the medical professional will get examinations to assist validate the medical diagnosis. This commonly involves:
– Blood tests.
– Electroencephalogram (EEG).
– Brain imaging scans, like an MRI or CT scan.


Who diagnoses epilepsy?

Epilepsy is detected by a neurologist, that concentrates on the feature and also conditions of the brain.1 Other professionals may be included, including a neuropsychologist, a professional in the organization between the mind and also actions.17.

Can blood tests diagnose epilepsy?

No, however they can aid rule out various other feasible root causes of your signs and symptoms (including infections, liver or kidney disorder, as well as electrolyte inequalities) or help identify the kinds of seizures you are having. These consist of a complete blood count (CBC), extensive metabolic panel (CMP), as well as lotion prolactin test, to name a few.18.

How is an EEG used to diagnose epilepsy?

An electroencephalogram (EEG) can help diagnose epilepsy based on the pattern of brain waves. Though some forms of epilepsy cause unusual brain task beyond a seizure, many are just observable when a seizure happens. To conquer this, portable ambulatory EEG equipments are available to remotely keep track of brain activity over the course of hours, days, and also weeks.

How are imaging tests used to diagnose epilepsy?

Imaging scans can discover sores and also problems in the mind and help determine where the seizures are originating. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is typically the device of selection, but others may be bought based on the presumed reason or seizure kind, consisting of computed tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET DOG), and single-photon emission CT (SPECT).


When is an ECG used in the diagnosis of epilepsy?

An electrocardiogram (ECG), which gauges the electric task of the heart during a heart beat, can help eliminate cardio causes of your signs and symptoms. This consists of heart rhythm problems (heart arrhythmia) and also heart shutoff problems that can trigger spontaneous fainting (syncope).4.

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