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Exams and Tests
Making the correct diagnosis is vital to identifying the appropriate treatment to control seizures.
Diagnosing epilepsy can be quite difficult. When you consult a doctor after you or your child has had unexplained seizures, you and the doctor will work together to answer three questions:
A physical exam and detailed medical history often provide the best clues as to whether you have epilepsy and what type of epilepsy and seizures you have. Discussing what happens to you just before, during, and right after a seizure can help the doctor make a diagnosis.
Your doctor may want to rule out other possible causes for the seizures with other laboratory tests, which may include:
The most useful test in support of a diagnosis of epilepsy is an electroencephalogram (EEG). A computer records your brain's electrical patterns as wavy lines. If you have epilepsy, the EEG may show abnormal spikes or waves in your brain's electrical activity patterns. Different types of epilepsy cause different patterns. But an EEG is limited in its ability to diagnose epilepsy. And many people with epilepsy have normal EEGs in between seizures.
Imaging tests (MRI and CT)
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) are imaging tests that allow a doctor to view the brain and evaluate the cause and location of a possible source of epilepsy within the brain. The scans can reveal scar tissue, tumors, or structural problems in the brain that may be the cause of seizures or epilepsy. MRI is the more helpful test in most cases. Imaging tests may not be done after a first seizure, but they are recommended in many situations (such as after a first seizure in adults or after a head injury).
See an MRI image of a seizure.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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