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Introducing our newest writer: Rachel Ehrhardt on testing in epilepsy

Our Newest Writer

I am pleased to introduce you to Living Well With Epilepsy’s newest contributing writer, Rachel Ehrhardt. Rachel is a woman living with epilepsy in Texas. She comes from of an immediate family of four, where three of her family members suffer from a form of Epilepsy.

Rachel has become a more frequent contributor over the past year and we are thrilled to welcome her to the Living Well With Epilepsy family of writers. Please extend your warmest welcome with a comment or a share!

Testing in Epilepsy

This article in particular is going to focus on the different types of testing in epilepsy. You will learn about options available and why each is used. As always if you have any questions please do not hesitate to comment at the bottom and I will get to them quickly.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

First up is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Epilepsy. This is one of the top imaging tests used in determining the underlying cause of epilepsy and other medical conditions.

An MRI scanner uses radio waves and a magnetic field to show the physical structure of the brain. According to the Mayo Clinic, “When you lie inside an MRI machine, the magnetic field temporarily realigns hydrogen atoms in your body. Radio waves cause these aligned atoms to produce very faint signals, which are used to create cross-sectional MRI images — like slices in a loaf of bread.”

An MRI involves entering into a metal like tube. You lie on your back on a bed and the MRI machine sends images to a computer which indicates different brain tissues in different colors.

My brain is not abnormal and I’ve never had brain damage, but I have had the newest version of this test, which is only available at certain top tier research hospitals such as the medical center in Houston. They discovered I have a weak artery connection from my brain to my heart. If I were to have natural childbirth at some point it could be a major issue. I never would have known this were it not for the testing.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

The next type of test in which is widely used in diagnosis of epilepsy is the EEG. It is a completely painless test but can have one of the biggest impacts on your treatment plan.

During an EEG you are prepped just like you are going to sleep complete with pillows and blankets. Wire Leeds are placed on your skull with concrete like paste. It is best to go into this with one day dirty hair in order for the paste to stay in place. Also you are going to want to wash it out immediately after anyway.

The test can provide information about the electrical activity that is happening in your brain. Very few people have unusual EEG results and it is usually due to other medical conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, “An EEG can determine changes in brain activity that may be useful in diagnosing brain disorders, especially epilepsy. An EEG can’t measure intelligence or detect mental illness.”

Helpful Tips

One important note about EEGs: many times they will try and induce seizures with sleep deprivation and light sensitivity. It is used to see how your brain deals with this environment allowing doctors to see the big picture before giving you a full treatment plan. For me, I suffer with issues of light sensitivity causing auras and seizures. So for me, this portion of the test could cause seizure activity. I suggest someone to come with you and drive you home. Also, my sister, Meredith found out in her most recent four day EEG that she has a completely different type of epilepsy then we ever thought. I think this test can be extremely helpful and educational.

I truly hope this article has helped to educate you and maybe put you at ease a bit before going into your next testing. As always please feel free to comment and post questions or ideas you would like to learn more about in a future article.  Thank you so much for your support. It means the world.

Rachel Ehrhardt
Follow Rachel Ehrhardt:
Rachel Ehrhardt Streelman is from Houston , Texas. She has been a writer and contributor to Living Well with Epilepsy for two years. Rachel has had epilepsy since 9 months old. She comes from a family where her father, sister, and herself all have different forms of epilepsy. Rachel is married to Casey and they have a Cavapoo named Sheldon.

  1. Megan Davis
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    Woo Woo!!! So excited to see you on here and sharing your wealth of knowledge and experiences with people. You are awesome girl!!!!