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How is Epilepsy Diagnosed?

There is currently no single test that can diagnosis Epilepsy. It is not common for an individual to be diagnosed with Epilepsy following one seizure, it is normally only recognised if the person has had two or more seizures that have originated in the brain. Epilepsy is normally diagnosed by a doctor or neurologist based on the description of what happened before, during and following the seizure provided by the person and also any eye witness accounts. A review of the person's medical history will also be performed to assess for any predisposing conditions that may have resulted in Epilepsy. There are also several tests that are commonly used during the diagnosis stage, including:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
    • EEG is a common test used when investigating Epilepsy and it provides information about brain activity. Electrodes are placed on the scalp and connected to the EEG machine. This then records on a computer the electrical signal activity in the brain. Different tasks will be required to be performed during this test, such as opening and closing of the eyes, looking at flashing lights.
    • It is not a definitive test for the diagnosis of Epilepsy as it can only record the electrical activity in the brain during the test and cannot provide a general picture.
  • Computerised Tomography (CT)
    • This is a scan that uses x-rays to provide an image of the structure of the brain. It allows abnormalities in the brains structure to be highlighted, but will not show whether an individual has Epilepsy or not.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
    • Similar to a CT scan, but has the ability to show any abnormalities in the brain's structure that a CT scan may not have shown. This is because the MRI is more powerful as it uses radio waves and a magnetic field.
  • Blood tests
    • To assess if there are any underlying diseases/conditions that may be causing seizures

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