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Epilepsy (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care for Epilepsy

A first seizure is a reason to visit your doctor or a hospital's emergency department. For someone with a diagnosed seizure disorder, a change in seizure patterns or more frequent seizures are reasons to see the doctor.

Visits to a hospital's emergency department are not needed for everyone with a seizure. Some seizures are emergencies, as in the following cases when 911 should be called:

  • A seizure that continues for more than 5 minutes 
  • Breathing difficulty 
  • Persistent confusion or unconsciousness 
  • Injuries sustained during a seizure
  • A first seizure

Epilepsy Exams and Tests

The first task facing the doctor is to decide if the event was a seizure or some other condition, such as fainting, that may mimic a seizure.

  • The doctor will take a history about the facts that surrounded the event. Any eyewitness accounts will be very helpful. Family history, social history, and past medical history are important as well.
  • Bring any medicine containers, including prescription drugs, to the hospital to help the doctor make the diagnosis.
  • A neurological examination will be performed. This may include some tests not usually performed in other physical examinations, such as strength and reflex testing.
  • Depending on the history and physical examination, laboratory work may be ordered. This might include blood or urine testing.
  • Special testing such as MRI, CT scans, or EEG (brain wave patterns) may be performed.

Self-Care at Home for Epilepsy

Home care with epilepsy varies with the frequency and type of seizures. It is important to take anticonvulsant medication regularly to prevent seizures.

When a seizure occurs, an observer can use common sense to prevent injuries.

  • Cushion the person's head.
  • Loosen any tight neckwear.
  • Turn the person on his or her side.
  • Do not hold the person down or restrain the person.
  • Do not place anything in the mouth or try to pry the teeth apart. The person is not in danger of swallowing his or her tongue.
  • Observe seizure characteristics-length, type of movements, direction of head or eye turning. These characteristics may help the doctor diagnose the type of seizure.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/6/2016
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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Benign Childhood Epilepsy »

Epilepsy is defined as 2 or more unprovoked seizures.

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