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Epilepsy Blog Relay: How is epilepsy diagnosed?

When epilepsy symptoms such as seizures or lost time emerge, frustration is natural. I’m sorry to say the process of getting an epilepsy diagnosis can be excruciatingly slow. So dealing with this frustration requires patience, but ruling out other conditions is a necessary part of the diagnosis process.

This story is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™.

The testing you may undergo includes the following:

Neurological Exam

A complete neurological exam will usually be given to check brain and nerve functioning, as well as diagnose which part of the brain is being affected. Next, the functioning of senses, muscles, reflexes and coordination, as well as cognitive functions will be tested. These will provide a base level in the occasion that medicine is prescribed, to check that the dosage is appropriate.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

An EEG not considered a diagnostic tool or a biomarker but it is often used by clinicians to support a diagnosis of epilepsy. An EEG will measure abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This test takes about 90 minutes, with brain activity being measured for about a half hour. Since this is such a short period of time and often does not capture seizure activity, the doctor may ask the patient to stay in the hospital facility. By tracking brain activity over a longer period of time, up to several days, there is a higher likelihood the team will capture some seizure activity. In addition to monitoring brain activity, this test often includes monitoring physical movements and behavior with a video camera.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

A PET scan may be taken to help identify the area of the brain that is causing the seizures. This test begins with a small injection of a radioactive ‘tracer’, which sounds out positrons that enables an image to be formed and helps detect the problematic area.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

An MRI scan may be taken to assist the neurologist in providing treatment. This test lasts about a half hour, and makes a very loud and distinctive sound. You will also be asked to remain still in a fairly confined space. It helps to come prepared with earplugs and to wear comfortable clothing.


Feel free to check out our other articles on types of seizures, finding a neurologist and more.

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Founder and CEO Jessica brings a unique perspective to this leading epilepsy blog as she was diagnosed with epilepsy as a teen. She also brings 20+ years experience in marketing.

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