Diagnosis

Diagnosing seizures and epilepsy is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. The “pieces” are information from you, your healthcare team, and your test results. Explore the criteria and tools your doctors may use to diagnose you.

Knowing you’re having a seizure and diagnosing the type of seizure or epilepsy syndrome can be difficult. Even if it’s unclear whether you’ve had a seizure, you should see a doctor if you suspect, or people tell you, that there are times when you aren’t aware of what you're doing.

The doctor would try to figure out if you had a seizure and what caused it. If another medical condition, like diabetes, caused your seizure, you will need treatment for that condition. If your doctor thinks you have epilepsy, they will probably order some tests and prescribe medicine to keep you from having more seizures.

Evaluate Your Medical History

When you visit your primary care doctor or neurologist, they’ll ask lots of questions about your health and what happened before, during, and after the seizure. It’s helpful to bring along a family member or someone else who saw the seizure. That person can tell the doctor what happened, since you may have been unconscious.

Learn what questions to expect from your doctor

Perform a Neurological Exam

If you have spells that may be seizures, your primary doctor will probably send you to see a neurologist. A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in the brain and nervous system. They will perform a complete neurological exam to find out how well your brain and the rest of your nervous system are functioning.

Learn about neurological exams

Receive an Electroencephalogram (EEG)

An EEG is a safe and painless test that looks for changes in your brain's electrical patterns that relate to seizures. Some abnormal patterns may occur with many different conditions, not just seizures.

Learn about EEG testing

Perform Brain Imaging

Brain scans refer to a CT scan, CAT scan, or MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging). These tests look for changes in the structure of your brain, like a tumor or bleeding. Brain scans can often see changes in the way your brain developed that could lead to seizures.

Learn about brain imaging for epilepsy

Assemble Your Healthcare Team

If your doctor diagnoses you with epilepsy, it’s important to have the right healthcare team supporting you. Depending on your treatment plan, you may work with doctors who specialize in epilepsy, advanced practice nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other specialists.

Learn more about your healthcare team

What if It’s Not Epilepsy?

After looking at your test results, your doctor may find that you don’t have epilepsy. You may have a medical or psychological condition that causes events that look like epilepsy seizures. In that case, your doctor will treat the condition you have instead of giving you anti-seizure medicines.

Learn about other potential diagnoses

Related Resources

Epilepsy Centers Near You

Epilepsy centers have experts in the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of epilepsy.

Seizure Tracking Forms

A catalogue of seizure tracking forms, questionnaires for parents, and camp forms.

My Seizure Diary Tracking App

My Seizure Diary helps you record, track, and manage your seizures and epilepsy.

Epilepsy & Seizures 24/7 Helpline

Call 1-800-332-1000 to speak with an information specialist or submit a question online.

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