Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (2023)


Epilepsy FAQs

Pediatric neurologist Lily Wong-Kisiel, M.D., answers the most frequently asked questions about epilepsy.

Ask Mayo Clinic - Epilepsy

Lily Wong-Kisiel, M.D., Pediatric Neurologist, Mayo Clinic:

What are the tests for epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a syndrome diagnosis. It's a symptom that describes brainwave abnormalities. There are underlying causes that need to be evaluated. MRI of the brain to look for structural abnormality, EEG to look at characteristics of the brainwave activity so the physician can categorize which type or types of seizure the patient has. Then there are, in some children, genetic causes, neurometabolic causes or auto-immune causes that can be looked at.

What is a seizure action plan?

A seizure action plan is a roadmap for nurses and teachers at school to help your child should a seizure happen at school. It includes information about what type of seizure, what your child's seizure looks like, and if there is any anti-seizure medication that should be used while the seizure is happening to shorten the seizures or how to contact the family should prolonged seizures happen.

How harmful are seizures?

So most seizures are brief. Depending on the patient, there are absence seizures that are five to six seconds. Other patients may have generalized tonic-clonic seizures which last two to three minutes. Those short, brief seizures, although it may feel like a lifetime for parents, they do not cause negative impact on growth and development. However, we do have to worry about prolonged seizures that are greater than five minutes or multiple seizures, generalized tonic-clonic seizures, more than three in an hour, in which case, your doctor may talk to you about a seizure action plan.

How are seizures monitored?

This depends on the seizure type. For the absence seizures which are subtle staring, this depends on your observation of how often this is happening to your child. For those patients where it's not possible or practical to monitor all the time, it is helpful to ask and talk to your physician about EEG monitoring with video ongoing. This could be helpful for those subtle seizures that are less detectable by visual inspection. For those patients who have nocturnal seizures where it's not practical to monitor consistently when everyone is asleep, video EEG monitoring can also be quite helpful in determining the seizure frequency. For those patients who have generalized tonic-clonic seizures where there are convulsive movements, there are FDA-cleared devices, wearable devices, that can detect these generalized tonic-clonic seizures based on movements.

What is medically refractory epilepsy? Seizures that can't be controlled by medication.

About a third of the patients with epilepsy can continue to have seizures despite appropriate treatment. In those patients, evaluation for surgery can be an option. Epilepsy surgery can be an option for those patients who have a focal epilepsy, where a focus can be identified and safely removed. Epilepsy surgery is also an option for certain types of generalized epilepsy, where disconnection surgery can be performed.

How can I be the best partner to my epilepsy team?

First of all, be prepared with your questions when you come to your clinic visits. Come with your observation of the different seizure type or types that you've observed, know what the duration of the seizures are and have a seizure calendar so that you and your physician and your care team can review the frequency of your seizures.

Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (1) Diagnosing your condition

EEG brain activity

Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (2)

EEG brain activity

An EEG records the electrical activity of your brain via electrodes affixed to your scalp. EEG results show changes in brain activity that may be useful in diagnosing brain conditions, especially epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

(Video) EPILEPSY, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.

Pinpointing seizure location

Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (4)

Pinpointing seizure location

This example shows SPECT scans taken during and between seizures. The differences represent areas where blood flow increased during the seizure. Once identified, that location is fitted onto an MRI scan of the brain.

To diagnose your condition, your health care provider will likely review your symptoms and medical history. You may have several tests to diagnose epilepsy and to detect the cause of seizures. Your evaluation may include:

  • A neurological exam. This exam tests your behavior, motor abilities, mental function and other areas to diagnose your condition and determine the type of epilepsy you may have.
  • Blood tests. A blood sample can detect signs of infections, genetic conditions or other conditions that may be associated with seizures.
  • Genetic testing. In some people with epilepsy, genetic testing may give more information about the condition and how to treat it. Genetic testing is most often performed in children but also may be helpful in some adults with epilepsy.

You also may have one or more brain imaging tests and scans that detect brain changes:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG). This is the most common test used to diagnose epilepsy. In this test, electrodes are attached to your scalp with a paste-like substance or cap. The electrodes record the electrical activity of your brain.

    If you have epilepsy, it's common to have changes in your typical pattern of brain waves. These changes occur even when you're not having a seizure. Your health care provider may monitor you on video during an EEG to detect and record any seizures you experience. This may be done while you're awake or asleep. Recording the seizures may help determine what kind of seizures you're having or rule out other conditions.

    The test may be done in a health care provider's office or the hospital. If appropriate, you also may have an ambulatory EEG, which you wear at home while the EEG records seizure activity over the course of a few days.

    You may get instructions to do something that can cause seizures, such as getting little sleep prior to the test.

  • High-density EEG. In a variation of an EEG test, you may have a high-density EEG, which spaces electrodes more closely than does conventional EEG. High-density EEG may help more precisely determine which areas of your brain are affected by seizures.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan uses X-rays to obtain cross-sectional images of your brain. CT scans can detect tumors, bleeding or cysts in the brain that might be causing epilepsy.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create a detailed view of the brain. Like a CT scan, an MRI looks at the structure of the brain to detect what may be causing seizures. But an MRI provides a more detailed look at the brain than a CT scan.
  • Functional MRI (fMRI). A functional MRI measures the changes in blood flow that occur when specific parts of the brain are working. This test may be used before surgery to identify the exact locations of critical functions, such as speech and movement, so that surgeons can avoid injuring those places while operating.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET). PET scans use a small amount of low-dose radioactive material that's injected into a vein to help visualize metabolic activity of the brain and detect changes. Areas of the brain with low metabolism may indicate places where seizures occur.
  • Single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT). This type of test is used primarily if MRI and EEG didn't pinpoint the location in the brain where the seizures are originating.

    A SPECT test uses a small amount of low-dose radioactive material that's injected into a vein to create a detailed, 3D map of the blood flow activity in the brain during seizures. Areas of higher than typical blood flow during a seizure may indicate places where seizures occur.

    Another type of SPECT test called subtraction ictal SPECT coregistered to MRI (SISCOM) may provide even more-detailed results by overlapping the SPECT results with brain MRI results.

  • Neuropsychological tests. These tests assess thinking, memory and speech skills. The test results help determine which areas of the brain are affected by seizures.

Along with your test results, a combination of analysis techniques may be used to help pinpoint where in the brain seizures start:

(Video) Epilepsy & Seizure Disorder | Clinical Presentation

  • Statistical parametric mapping (SPM). SPM is a method of comparing areas of the brain that have increased blood flow during seizures to the same areas of the brains of people who don't have seizures. This provides information about where seizures begin.
  • Electrical source imaging (ESI). ESI is a technique that takes EEG data and projects it onto an MRI of the brain to show areas where seizures are occurring. This technique provides more-precise detail than does EEG alone.
  • Magnetoencephalography (MEG). MEG measures the magnetic fields produced by brain activity. This helps identify potential areas where seizures start. MEG can be more accurate than EEG because the skull and tissue surrounding the brain interfere less with magnetic fields than with electrical impulses. MEG and MRI together provide images that show areas of the brain both affected by seizures and not affected by seizures.

Accurate diagnosis of your seizure type and where seizures begin gives you the best chance for finding an effective treatment.

Care at Mayo Clinic

Our caring team of Mayo Clinic experts can help you with your epilepsy-related health concernsStart Here

More Information

  • Epilepsy care at Mayo Clinic
  • CT scan
  • EEG (electroencephalogram)
  • MRI
  • Positron emission tomography scan
  • SPECT scan
  • Epilepsy FAQs
  • Infographic: Adult Epilepsy: Pinpointing Seizures
  • Infographic: Epilepsy and Brain Mapping


Treatment can help people diagnosed with epilepsy have fewer seizures or even completely stop having seizures. Possible treatments include:

  • Medicines.
  • Surgery.
  • Therapies that stimulate the brain using a device.
  • A ketogenic diet.


Most people with epilepsy can become seizure-free by taking one anti-seizure medicine, which is also called anti-epileptic medicine. Others may be able to decrease the frequency and intensity of their seizures by taking a combination of medicines.

Many children with epilepsy who aren't experiencing epilepsy symptoms can eventually discontinue medicines and live a seizure-free life. Many adults can discontinue medicines after two or more years without seizures. Your health care team can advise you about the appropriate time to stop taking medicines.

Finding the right medicine and dosage can be complex. Your provider may consider your condition, frequency of seizures, age and other factors when choosing which medicine to prescribe. Your provider also may review any other medicines you may be taking to ensure the anti-epileptic medicines won't interact with them.

You may first take a single medicine at a relatively low dosage and then increase the dosage gradually until your seizures are well controlled.

There are more than 20 different types of anti-seizure medicines available. The medicines that you take to treat your epilepsy depend on the type of seizures you have, as well as other factors such as your age and other health conditions.

These medicines may have some side effects. Mild side effects include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Weight gain.
  • Loss of bone density.
  • Skin rashes.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Speech problems.
  • Memory and thinking problems.

More-severe but rare side effects include:

  • Depression.
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
  • Severe rash.
  • Inflammation of certain organs, such as the liver.

To achieve the best seizure control possible with medicine, follow these steps:

  • Take medicines exactly as prescribed.
  • Always call your health care provider before switching to a generic version of your medicine or taking other medicines — those you get with or without a prescription — or herbal remedies.
  • Never stop taking your medicine without talking to your health care provider.
  • Notify your health care provider immediately if you notice new or increased feelings of depression, suicidal thoughts, or unusual changes in your mood or behaviors.
  • Tell your health care provider if you have migraines. Your provider may prescribe one of the anti-epileptic medicines that can prevent your migraines and treat epilepsy.

At least half the people newly diagnosed with epilepsy become seizure-free with their first medicine. If anti-seizure medicines don't provide good results, you may be able to have surgery or other therapies. You'll likely have regular follow-up appointments with your health care provider to evaluate your condition and medicines.


Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (5) Epilepsy surgery

When medicines do not provide adequate control of seizures, epilepsy surgery may be an option. With epilepsy surgery, a surgeon removes the area of your brain that's causing seizures.

Surgery usually happens when tests show that:

  • Your seizures originate in a small, well-defined area of your brain.
  • The area in your brain to be operated on doesn't interfere with vital functions such as speech, language, motor function, vision or hearing.

For some types of epilepsy, minimally invasive approaches such as MRI-guided stereotactic laser ablation may provide effective treatment when an open procedure may be too risky. In these procedures, a thermal laser probe is directed at the specific area in the brain causing seizures to destroy that tissue in an effort to better control the seizures.

Although you may continue to need some medicine to help prevent seizures after successful surgery, you may be able to take fewer medicines and reduce your doses.

In a small number of people, surgery for epilepsy can cause complications such as permanently altering thinking abilities. Talk to your surgical team members about their experience, success rates and complication rates with the procedure you're considering.


Vagus nerve stimulation

Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (6)

(Video) Epilepsy Symptoms and Treatment Options

Vagus nerve stimulation

In vagus nerve stimulation, an implanted pulse generator and lead wire stimulate the vagus nerve, which leads to stabilization of electrical activity in the brain.

Deep brain stimulation

Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (7)

Deep brain stimulation

Deep brain stimulation involves implanting an electrode deep within the brain. The amount of stimulation delivered by the electrode is controlled by a pacemaker-like device placed under the skin in the chest. A wire that travels under the skin connects the device to the electrode.

MRI of deep brain stimulation

Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (8)

MRI of deep brain stimulation

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of deep brain stimulation shows the location of electrodes placed in the brain.

Apart from medicines and surgery, these potential therapies offer an alternative for treating epilepsy:

  • Vagus nerve stimulation. Vagus nerve stimulation may be an option when medicines haven't worked well enough to control seizures and surgery isn't possible. In vagus nerve stimulation, a device called a vagus nerve stimulator is implanted underneath the skin of the chest, similar to a heart pacemaker. Wires from the stimulator are connected to the vagus nerve in the neck.

    The battery-powered device sends bursts of electrical energy through the vagus nerve and to the brain. It's not clear how this inhibits seizures, but the device can usually reduce seizures by 20% to 40%.

    Most people still need to take anti-epileptic medicine, although some people may be able to lower their medicine dose. Vagus nerve stimulation side effects may include throat pain, hoarse voice, shortness of breath or coughing.

  • Deep brain stimulation. In deep brain stimulation, surgeons implant electrodes into a specific part of the brain, typically the thalamus. The electrodes are connected to a generator implanted in the chest. The generator regularly sends electrical pulses to the brain at timed intervals and may reduce seizures. Deep brain stimulation is often used for people whose seizures don't get better with medicine.
  • Responsive neurostimulation. These implantable, pacemaker-like devices can help significantly reduce how often seizures occur. These responsive stimulation devices analyze brain activity patterns to detect seizures as they start and deliver an electrical charge or medicine to stop the seizure before it causes impairment. Research shows that this therapy has few side effects and can provide long-term seizure relief.

Ketogenic diet

Some children and adults with epilepsy have been able to reduce their seizures by following a strict diet that's high in fats and low in carbohydrates. This may be an option when medicines aren't helping to control epilepsy.

In this diet, called a ketogenic diet, the body breaks down fats instead of carbohydrates for energy. After a few years, some children may be able to stop the ketogenic diet — under close supervision of their health care providers — and remain seizure-free.

Experts don't fully know how a ketogenic diet works to reduce seizures. But researchers think that the diet creates chemical changes that suppress seizures. The diet also alters the actions of brain cells to reduce seizures.

Get medical advice if you or your child is considering a ketogenic diet. It's important to make sure that your child doesn't become malnourished when following the diet.

Side effects of a ketogenic diet may include dehydration, constipation, slowed growth because of nutritional deficiencies and a buildup of uric acid in the blood, which can cause kidney stones. These side effects are uncommon if the diet is properly and medically supervised.

Following a ketogenic diet can be a challenge. Low-glycemic index and modified Atkins diets offer less restrictive alternatives that may still provide some benefit for seizure control.

(Video) Diagnosis and Treatment of Epilepsy – What’s New? - Dr. David Ficker

Potential future treatments

Researchers are studying many potential new treatments for epilepsy, including:

  • Continuous stimulation of the seizure onset zone, known as subthreshold stimulation. Subthreshold stimulation — continuous stimulation to an area of the brain below a level that's physically noticeable — appears to improve seizure outcomes and quality of life for some people with seizures. Subthreshold stimulation helps stop a seizure before it happens. This treatment approach may work in people who have seizures that start in an area of the brain called the eloquent area that can't be removed because it would affect speech and motor functions. Or it might benefit people whose seizure characteristics mean their chances of successful treatment with responsive neurostimulation are low.
  • Minimally invasive surgery. New minimally invasive surgical techniques, such as MRI-guided focused ultrasound, show promise for treating seizures. These surgeries have fewer risks than traditional open-brain surgery for epilepsy.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS applies focused magnetic fields on areas of the brain where seizures occur to treat seizures without the need for surgery. It may be used for patients whose seizures occur close to the surface of the brain and can't be treated with surgery.
  • External trigeminal nerve stimulation. Similar to vagus nerve stimulation, a device stimulates specific nerves to reduce frequency of seizures. But unlike in vagus nerve stimulation, the device is worn outside the body so that no surgery is needed to put the device in the body. In studies, external trigeminal nerve stimulation provided improvements in both seizure control and mood.

Pacemaker for epilepsy

You see, an epileptic seizure is an abnormal electrical disturbance of the brain. The device is implanted under the skin, and four electrodes are attached to the outer layers of your brain. The device monitors brain waves, and when it senses abnormal electrical activity it fires electrical stimulation and stops the seizures.

More Information

  • Epilepsy care at Mayo Clinic
  • Neurontin side effects: How do I manage them?
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Epilepsy surgery
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Vagus nerve stimulation
  • Pacemaker for epilepsy
  • Infographic: Electrical Brain Stimulation for Epilepsy

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Lifestyle and home remedies

Understanding your condition can help you take better control of it:

  • Take your medicine correctly. Don't adjust your dosage before talking to a member of your health care team. If you feel that your medicine should be changed, discuss it with your provider.
  • Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can trigger seizures. Be sure to get adequate rest every night.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet. This will help emergency personnel know how to treat you correctly.
  • Exercise. Exercising may help keep you physically healthy and reduce depression. Make sure to drink enough water, and rest if you get tired during exercise.

In addition, make healthy life choices, such as managing stress, limiting alcoholic beverages and avoiding cigarettes.

Coping and support

Uncontrolled seizures and their effects on your life may at times feel overwhelming or lead to depression. It's important not to let epilepsy hold you back. You can still live an active, full life. To help cope:

  • Educate yourself and your friends and family about epilepsy so that they understand the condition.
  • Try to ignore negative reactions from people. It helps to learn about epilepsy so that you know the facts as opposed to misconceptions about the disease. And try to keep your sense of humor.
  • Live as independently as possible. Continue to work, if possible. If you can't drive because of your seizures, investigate public transportation options near you. If you aren't allowed to drive, you might consider moving to a city with good public transportation options.
  • Find a health care provider you like and with whom you feel comfortable.
  • Try not to constantly worry about having a seizure.
  • Find an epilepsy support group to meet people who understand what you're going through.

If your seizures are so severe that you can't work outside your home, there are still ways to feel productive and connected to people. You may consider working from home.

Let people you work and live with know the correct way to handle a seizure in case they are with you when you have one. You may offer them suggestions, such as:

  • Carefully roll the person onto one side to prevent choking.
  • Place something soft under the person's head.
  • Loosen tight neckwear.
  • Don't try to put your fingers or anything else in the person's mouth. People with epilepsy will not "swallow" their tongues during a seizure — it's physically impossible.
  • Don't try to restrain someone having a seizure.
  • If the person is moving, clear away dangerous objects.
  • If immediate medical help is needed, stay with the person until medical personnel arrive.
  • Observe the person closely so that you can provide details on what happened.
  • Time the seizures.
  • Be calm during the seizures.

Preparing for your appointment

You're likely to start by seeing your primary care provider. However, when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to a specialist. This specialist may be a doctor trained in brain and nervous system conditions, known as a neurologist, or a neurologist trained in epilepsy, known as an epileptologist.

Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot to talk about, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect.

What you can do

  • Keep a detailed seizure calendar. Each time a seizure occurs, write down the time, the type of seizure you experienced and how long it lasted. Also make note of any circumstances, such as missed medicines, sleep deprivation, increased stress, menstruation or other events that might trigger seizure activity.

    Seek input from people who may observe your seizures, including family, friends and co-workers, so that you can record information you may not know.

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medicines, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  • Take a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.

    Also, because you may not be aware of everything that happens when you're having a seizure, someone else who has seen your seizures may be able to answer questions during your appointment.

  • Write down questions to ask your health care provider. Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your appointment time.

For epilepsy, some basic questions include:

  • What is likely causing my seizures?
  • What kinds of tests do I need?
  • Is my epilepsy likely temporary or chronic?
  • What treatment approach do you recommend?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • How can I make sure that I don't hurt myself if I have another seizure?
  • I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
  • Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.

What to expect from your doctor

Your health care provider is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:

  • When did you first begin experiencing seizures?
  • Do your seizures seem to be triggered by certain events or conditions?
  • Do you have similar sensations just before the onset of a seizure?
  • Have your seizures been frequent or occasional?
  • What symptoms do you have when you experience a seizure?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your seizures?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your seizures?

What you can do in the meantime

Certain conditions and activities can trigger seizures, so it may be helpful to:

  • Avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • Avoid using nicotine.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Reduce stress.

Also, it's important to start keeping a log of your seizures before your appointment.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

(Video) Epilepsy Diagnosis and Treatments - Good Day PA – Penn State Neuroscience Institute


How is epilepsy diagnosed or treatment? ›

Electroencephalogram (EEG).

This is the most common test used to diagnose epilepsy. In this test, electrodes are attached to your scalp with a paste-like substance or cap. The electrodes record the electrical activity of your brain.

What are 3 treatments for epilepsy? ›

Treatments include:
  • medicines called anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs)
  • surgery to remove a small part of the brain that's causing the seizures.
  • a procedure to put a small electrical device inside the body that can help control seizures.
  • a special diet (ketogenic diet) that can help control seizures.

How do you diagnose epilepsy? ›

Checking your brain activity (EEG)

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is used to check for unusual electrical activity in the brain that can happen in people with epilepsy. During the test, small sensors are attached to your scalp to pick up the electrical signals produced when brain cells send messages to each other.

What is the main treatment for epilepsy? ›

Treatments include: medicines called anti-epileptic drugs – these are the main treatment. surgery to remove a small part of the brain that's causing the seizures. a procedure to put a small electrical device inside the body that can help control seizures.

What triggers epilepsy? ›

Triggers can differ from person to person, but common triggers include tiredness and lack of sleep, stress, alcohol, and not taking medication. For some people, if they know what triggers their seizures, they may be able to avoid these triggers and so lessen the chances of having a seizure.

What happens when you are diagnosed with epilepsy? ›

The main treatment for epilepsy is medicine to stop your seizures, or reduce how often they happen and how severe they are. You may hear these medicines called anti-seizure medications (ASMs) or the older term anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). To keep things simple, we call them epilepsy medicines.

What epilepsy patients should avoid? ›

Examples of triggers
  • Not taking epilepsy medicine as prescribed. ...
  • Feeling tired and not sleeping well. ...
  • Stress. ...
  • Alcohol and recreational drugs. ...
  • Flashing or flickering lights. ...
  • Monthly periods. ...
  • Missing meals. ...
  • Having an illness which causes a high temperature.

Can you fully recover from epilepsy? ›

About 6 out of 10 people diagnosed with epilepsy can become seizure free within a few years with proper treatment. Many of these people will never have any more seizures. For the rest of the people, some will have occasional breakthrough seizures or side effects of medicines and others will have uncontrolled seizures.

What is the first drug of choice for epilepsy? ›

Class Summary. Anticonvulsant agents, including lamotrigine, levetiracetam, oxcarbazepine, topiramate, and valproic acid, are commonly used for the treatment of seizures. Initial treatment includes monotherapy. Newer agents are acceptable choices and are likely just as effective as older agents.

Will an EEG show past seizures? ›

An EEG can usually show if you are having a seizure at the time of the test, but it can't show what happens to your brain at any other time. So even though your test results might not show any unusual activity it does not rule out having epilepsy.

Does epilepsy show on a brain scan? ›

Brain scans can be useful in diagnosing epilepsy. They are also used to work out if a person may be suitable for surgery,when it is necessary to confirm that seizures are arising from one part of the brain and that it is safe to remove this part.

Does epilepsy show up on MRI? ›

An MRI scan will not say for certain whether the person has epilepsy or not. But alongside other information, it might help the specialist to decide what the likely cause of the seizures is.

How far back can an EEG detect a seizure? ›

EEG: If performed within 24-48 hours of a first seizure, EEG shows substantial abnormalities in about 70% of cases. The yield may be lower with longer delays after the seizure. If the standard EEG is negative, sleep-deprived EEG will detect epileptiform discharges in an additional 13-31% of cases.

What should you never do when someone is having a seizure? ›

Support them gently and cushion their head, but do not try to move them. Do not put anything in their mouth, including your fingers. They should not have any food or drink until they have fully recovered.

What is the difference between a seizure and an epilepsy? ›

Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain characterized by repeated seizures. A seizure is usually defined as a sudden alteration of behavior due to a temporary change in the electrical functioning of the brain.

What three things can cause epilepsy? ›

  • Genetic influence. Some types of epilepsy run in families. ...
  • Head trauma. Head trauma as a result of a car accident or other traumatic injury can cause epilepsy.
  • Factors in the brain. Brain tumors can cause epilepsy. ...
  • Infections. ...
  • Injury before birth. ...
  • Developmental disorders.
Apr 28, 2023

What are early warning signs of a seizure? ›

A Déjà vu feeling (you feel like you are experiencing something that has occurred before) Intense fear and panic. 'Pins and needles' sensation in certain parts of your body. Jerky movements in of the arm, leg, or body.

Who is most likely to get epilepsy? ›

Children and older adults are more likely to have epilepsy because risk factors are more common in these groups.

What is the life expectancy of someone with epilepsy? ›

Some research⁵ suggests that people with epilepsy are two to three times more likely to die early than those without the condition. This research suggests that epilepsy can shorten life expectancy by ten years for those living with symptomatic epilepsy and by two years for those with idiopathic/cryptogenic epilepsy.

How does a person with epilepsy feel? ›

a general strange feeling that's hard to describe. a "rising" feeling in your tummy – like the sensation in your stomach when on a fairground ride. a feeling that events have happened before (déjà vu) unusual smells or tastes.

What is the life expectancy of someone diagnosed with epilepsy? ›

In general, people with epilepsy of unknown cause have a close-to-normal life expectancy. People with an inherited type of epilepsy may live 10 years less than the general population.

What foods make epilepsy worse? ›

Stimulants such as tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar, sweets, soft drinks, excess salt, spices and animal proteins may trigger seizures by suddenly changing the body's metabolism. Some parents have reported that allergic reactions to certain foods (e.g. white flour) also seem to trigger seizures in their children.

Does epilepsy count as a disability? ›

The Social Security Administration considers epilepsy to be a qualifying condition for disability benefits. This means that if you've been diagnosed with epilepsy and are unable to work for an extended period of time, you have a high chance of being granted benefits.

What are the 4 types of epilepsy? ›

Tonic: Muscles in the body become stiff. Atonic: Muscles in the body relax. Myoclonic: Short jerking in parts of the body. Clonic: Periods of shaking or jerking parts on the body.

What is life like after being diagnosed with epilepsy? ›

People with epilepsy often experience changes in their quality of life such as less mobility, as well as the impact on learning, school attendance, employment, relationships, and social interactions.

Does epilepsy get worse with age? ›

The incidence of any type of seizure increases substantially over the age of 60, commonly due to other neurological conditions such as dementia or stroke.

Does epilepsy affect memory? ›

Any type of epileptic seizure could potentially affect your memory, either during, or after, the seizure. If you have lots of seizures, particularly in a short space of time, your memory can be disrupted for a longer period of time.

Can you stop a seizure before it happens? ›

By interrupting a seizure at the time of its onset, we can prevent it from developing and spreading to other parts of the brain.” Dr.

What foods prevent seizures? ›

A low glycemic index diet focuses on foods with a low glycemic index, meaning they affect blood glucose levels slowly, if at all. Although it's not understood why, low blood glucose levels control seizures in some people. Foods on this diet include meat, cheese, and most high-fiber vegetables.

When should you start epilepsy treatment? ›

A seizure medicine is usually started if a person has had more than one seizure. Yet, a medicine may also be started if a person has only one seizure but other tests (such as an MRI or EEG) suggest a risk for more seizures in the future.

What does a neurologist do for seizures? ›

It is the neurologist who will generally diagnose epilepsy, and prescribe and start any treatment, such as medication. You might continue to see a neurologist while trying to get your seizures controlled, and you might also have ongoing regular reviews of your epilepsy with a neurologist.

How many hours should a person with epilepsy sleep? ›

Teens and young adults with epilepsy MUST achieve a minimum of 8 hours a night of good-quality sleep! 15 Tips to Follow: Go to sleep at the same time every day.

Can doctors tell if you've had a seizure? ›

Electroencephalogram (EEG) – Using electrodes attached to your head, your doctors can measure the electrical activity in your brain. This helps to look for patterns to determine if and when another seizure might occur, and it can also help them rule out other possibilities.

What blood test shows epilepsy? ›

Certain blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel, may be recommended as part of your epilepsy diagnosis and treatment. A positron emission tomography (PET) scan may be used to locate the part of the brain that is causing seizures.

Which is better MRI or EEG? ›

EEGs offer a lot of unique information about the brain that MRI scans cannot provide. They are an important tool for diagnosing and managing conditions like stroke, epilepsy, and dementia.

What happens if EEG is abnormal? ›

Abnormal results on an EEG test may be due to: Abnormal bleeding (hemorrhage) An abnormal structure in the brain (such as a brain tumor) Tissue death due to a blockage in blood flow (cerebral infarction)

What is the best imaging for epilepsy? ›

The most common neuroimaging tests for epilepsy are computed tomography (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Both produce a picture of how the brain looks. MRI is preferred because it provides more information than CT. In fact, MRI is recommended as the imaging test of choice.

How many seizures does it take to diagnose epilepsy? ›

A person is diagnosed with epilepsy when they have had two or more seizures. A seizure is a short change in normal brain activity. Seizures are the main sign of epilepsy. Some seizures can look like staring spells.

What causes seizures in adults with no history? ›

Seizures in adults with no seizure history can be caused by a number of factors ranging from high blood pressure, drug abuse and toxic exposures to brain injury, brain infection (encephalitis) and heart disease.

Can you drive after a one off seizure? ›

When can I drive? If you've had a single seizure for the first time, you must stop driving and tell the driving agency.

What kind of seizure doesn't show on EEG? ›

If a seizure is caused by a psychological condition, there will be no evidence of atypical activity on an electroencephalogram (EEG). These types of seizures are sometimes called: psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) “pseudoseizures,” which is an outdated term.

What mimics a seizure on EEG? ›

PNES are attacks that may look like epileptic seizures but are not caused by abnormal brain electrical discharges. Instead, they are a manifestation of psychological distress. PNES are not a unique disorder but are a specific type of a larger group of psychiatric conditions that manifest as physical symptoms.

What would cause a seizure all of a sudden? ›

Anything that interrupts the normal connections between nerve cells in the brain can cause a seizure. This includes a high fever, high or low blood sugar, alcohol or drug withdrawal, or a brain concussion. But when a person has 2 or more seizures with no known cause, this is diagnosed as epilepsy.

Should someone with seizures live alone? ›

Living independently with epilepsy is not without risk. These risks include a higher risk of accidents and premature death. Epilepsy has a considerable impact and significant social consequences. It can sometimes prevent someone from living alone or continuing to live independently.

Should you let someone sleep after a seizure? ›

Yes, let him sleep. When he has the seizure make sure he is on the floor where he will not injury himself. If he has been sick and has a lot of mucus make sure he is on his side so that the mucus and saliva does not choke him.

What is the most common treatment for epilepsy? ›

Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) AEDs are the most commonly used treatment for epilepsy. They help control seizures in around 7 out of 10 of people. AEDs work by changing the levels of chemicals in your brain.

What is the most common cause of seizure in epilepsy? ›

Missed medication, lack of sleep, stress, alcohol, and menstruation are some of the most common triggers, but there are many more. Flashing lights can cause seizures in some people, but it's much less frequent than you might imagine.

Can you have seizures but not epilepsy? ›

Seizures that are not due to epilepsy are sometimes called 'non-epileptic seizures'. They can have a physical cause such as low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) or may be related to how the heart is working. Or they may have a psychological cause.

When is epilepsy most commonly diagnosed? ›

Epilepsy can begin at any time of life, but it's most commonly diagnosed in children, and people over the age of 65. Some children with epilepsy will outgrow their seizures as they mature, while others may have seizures that continue into adulthood.

Can doctors diagnose epilepsy? ›

Diagnosing epilepsy is not simple. Doctors gather lots of different information to assess the causes of seizures. If you have had two or more seizures that started in the brain you may be diagnosed with epilepsy. Getting a diagnosis is not always easy as there is no single test that can diagnose epilepsy.

What is stage 1 of epilepsy? ›

Stage 1: Aura

This phase happens right before a seizure starts and is a warning that it is about to happen. The symptoms come on quickly and may only last a few seconds. If you have an aura, you may have: Deja vu (a sense that something has happened before when it hasn't)

What is the warning stage of epilepsy? ›


The most common symptoms of a prodrome include confusion, anxiety, irritability, headache, tremor, and anger or other mood disturbances. About 20% of individuals with epilepsy experience this stage,3 which may serve as a warning sign of seizure onset for those who experience it.

What is the warning for epilepsy? ›

IMMEDIATELY DISCONTINUE use and consult a physician if you or your child experience any of the following symptoms: dizziness, altered vision, eye or muscle twitching, involuntary movements, loss of awareness, disorientation, or convulsions. Parents should watch for or ask their children about the above symptoms.

What is the gold standard for diagnosing epilepsy? ›

Upon clinical suspicion, the gold standard diagnostic method of epilepsy is EEG, which can detect abnormal electrical discharges in the brain.

Can a neurologist tell if you've had a seizure? ›

Electroencephalography (EEG)

Clinicians can find evidence of abnormal electrical activity in the brain and figure out the type or types of seizures a patient is having, as well as the origin(s), by measuring brain waves over minutes to a couple of hours.

Can you drive if you have epilepsy? ›

Many people with epilepsy are able to drive, as long as they meet the driving rules for their type of seizures. Find out what to do if you're told to stop driving, the rules for when you can drive again, and how to get your licence back.

What can you not do when you have epilepsy? ›

There are some precautions you might need to take if your seizures are not well controlled. For example, you may need to: avoid swimming or doing water sports on your own. wear a helmet while cycling or horse riding.

What are 5 symptoms of epilepsy? ›

  • Temporary confusion.
  • A staring spell.
  • Stiff muscles.
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs.
  • Loss of consciousness or awareness.
  • Psychological symptoms such as fear, anxiety or deja vu.
Apr 28, 2023


1. Focal or Partial Epilepsy: Diagnosis and Treatment
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2. Advancements in epilepsy diagnostics and treatment
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3. Children with seizures benefit from early diagnosis and treatment | Vital Signs
(UCLA Health)
4. Pediatric Epilepsy Diagnosis and Treatment Mayo Clinic
(Mayo Clinic)
5. Epilepsy Diagnosis & Treatment- 5 New Things Every Physician Should Know, 11/5/14
(Mary Greeley Medical Center)
6. Temporal Lobe Epilepsy: Diagnosis and Treatment
(Dr. Omar Danoun)
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