DIAGNOSIS

The treatment of seizures depends on an accurate diagnosis of epilepsy. Recognizing a person is having a seizure and diagnosing the type of seizure or epilepsy can sometimes be challenging. There are many medical conditions that can cause changes in behavior, sensation, movement and awareness that might be confused with epilepsy. What actually happens during a seizure, the medical history, is one of the most important pieces of information in helping to diagnose epilepsy. In addition to the medical history, which is most often provided by family or friends who witness an event, doctors will order medical tests to try and confirm the diagnosis of epilepsy. Some of this early testing used to help make the correct diagnosis of epilepsy might include an EEG test (electroencephalogram) which is a test that allows for the recording of brain activity. Another test often requested by a physician is an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) which provides a detailed picture of the brain’s anatomy. Blood tests are also often a part of the initial work up a physician may order to evaluate a person who is having seizures.

 

What Kind of Doctor Can Help to Diagnose Epilepsy?

If you or a loved one suspects a problem it is important to share this information with your primary care doctor (family physician, pediatrician) first, and they will perform an evaluation. Your primary care doctor will listen to you and may order some initial testing, but in most instances if they are concerned a person is experiencing seizures they will refer you to a neurologist. A neurologist is a doctor who is trained to diagnose disorders of the brain, including epilepsy. Some neurologists have specific training in epilepsy and are called epileptologists.  Often, the first time a person has a seizure they may be taken by ambulance to the Emergency Room. In the emergency room the person will be evaluated by the emergency room physician and may also be seen by a neurologist or may be referred to see a neurologist in follow up.