Doctors may conduct physical exams, EEGs, brain imaging tests, and neurological exams to determine if a person has epilepsy. This can also help them determine the type of seizures someone may have.
The Epilepsy Foundation (EF) explains that most people with epilepsy share some common symptoms, but they affect individuals differently.
The organization notes that while not everyone will exhibit all the signs, doctors look for patterns or clusters of symptoms before diagnosing a person with epilepsy.
This article explains how doctors diagnose epilepsy and explores some of the tests they may use.
If someone has
However, they will want to rule out other causes first. These include high fevers, brain injuries, uncontrolled diabetes causing fluctuations in blood sugar, and nervous system infections.
During a physical exam, doctors will ask about the person’s medical history and what happened before, during, and after the seizure.
The EF suggests taking someone who saw the seizure along to the appointment, as the individual experiencing it may not be able to describe what happened.
Doctors may also ask if other family members have epilepsy, as some gene mutations have links to different types, according to the
An EEG measures electrical activity in a person’s brain.
It is a safe and painless test, during which a doctor attaches electrodes to the person’s scalp to record their brain signals.
Doctors look for patterns of typical and atypical brain activity, as certain patterns may indicate that the individual is likely to have seizures.
According to the EF, they may also be able to tell which part of the person’s brain the seizures affect.
CT and MRI scans may reveal cysts or tumors that can cause seizures.
Doctors may also recommend a single photon emission CT test that measures blood flow in the brain. They will inject the person with a radioactive dye before the scan.
The EF states that during a seizure, more blood flows to the affected area of the brain, and this test highlights the area in the scan.
Doctors may also recommend a neurological exam to check that the person’s brain is functioning as expected.
During the test, the neurologist tests a person’s muscles, reflexes, and senses. They will also examine their posture and gait.
The EF explains that neurologists will also sometimes test a person’s mental functions.
These tests may include simple math problems and the ability to name objects.
Other potential causes include:
- very high or very low blood sugar
- head injury
- traumatic brain injury
- impaired kidney function
This section answers some frequently asked questions about epilepsy tests.
Can epilepsy be detected by blood tests?
Epilepsy is undetectable by a blood test, but doctors may recommend one to rule out any genetic mutations that may link with it.
What are the warning signs of epilepsy?
Some may appear lost in concentration and not respond if another individual speaks to them. Others may experience jerky movements and lose control of their limbs.
Some people’s seizures make them fall over, and some lose consciousness. Individuals may also bite their tongues or chew on the inside of their cheeks.
Learn more about the signs of seizures.
Can doctors tell if you have had a seizure?
Doctors may ask if the person has had previous seizures, but they cannot test for them. Therefore, healthcare professionals generally cannot tell if someone has had a previous seizure.
Sometimes, seizures can cause structural damage to the brain. In these cases, doctors may be able to tell. However, most seizures do not permanently damage someone’s brain.
The EF explains that imaging tests, such as MRI scans, check for any lasting damage.
People with epilepsy have a brain disorder that causes seizures.
Doctors may use an array of tests to rule out any underlying illnesses or infections that might cause seizures.
Some tests measure activity in the person’s brain, while others look at a person’s responses and reflexes.
Doctors investigate epilepsy if someone has two or more seizures at least 24 hours apart.