Epilepsy Center

Epilepsy Diagnosis

About 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with epilepsy each year.  One person may experience different types of seizures of the brain, but most people will have the same type of seizure throughout their lives.   It is important to note that epilepsy is diagnosed after the occurrence of at least two seizures.  This is because the probability of additional seizures significantly increases after the first two seizures. 

You can work with a team of family physicians, internists, neurologists, pediatricians, and/or pediatric neurologists to determine if your seizure is epileptic or non-epileptic.  Doctors will primarily attempt to determine if the seizures are caused by other conditions or if the brain repeatedly experiences a problem in its electrical functions.  Other possible causes include:

  • an abnormality in the brain's structure
  • anxiety
  • environmental factors (flashing lights)
  • genetic predisposition
  • illness (fever or infection)

Medical exams
You can help your doctor by recording what has happened before and during each seizure, and any family history of epilepsy.  If you cannot remember what happened during a seizure episode, have a witness to your seizure record what happened.  Your doctor may request a physical examination that may include tests for balance, coordination, muscle strength, reflexes, and your memory and thinking; blood tests (for seizures related to anemia, diabetes, infection, and lead poisoning), and tests for your neurological system. Tests ordered for your neurological system may include: 

  • Angiograms - an X-Ray taken after dye has been injected into the blood vessels that lead towards the brain
  • CT scan (computerized tomography) - used to record brain images
  • Echoencephalogram - used for babies by creating a high frequency sound wave
  • EEG (electroencephalograph) - used to detect and record electrical abnormalities in the brain
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) - used to produce images of the brain using a magnetic field
  • PET (positron emission tomography) - detects small traces of radioactive materials are injected or inhaled, which allows doctors to view a picture of internal organs and processes
  • SPECT (single-photon emission computerized tomography) -  used especially for persons diagnosed with epilepsy, and are being considered for surgery; after radioactive material has been injected, a brain scan during a seizure and 24 hours after a seizure are taken
  • X-rays


If you suspect that you may be experiencing epileptic seizures, see your family doctor immediately.  People diagnosed with epilepsy are better capable of handling seizure occurrences due to medical advice, and treatment.  With a combined understanding of your medical history, test results, or examinations, your doctor can help you decide the best course of treatment.   Read on to learn about epilepsy treatments in our section on "Treating Epilepsy" now.


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