Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (2023)


Frequently asked questions about epilepsy

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 is a symptom that describes brain wave abnormalities. There are underlying causes that need to be evaluated. MRI of the brain to look for a structural abnormality, EEG to look at the characteristics of brain wave activity so the doctor can categorize the type or types of seizures the patient is having. Then there are, in some children, genetic causes, neurometabolic causes, or autoimmune causes that can be considered.

What is a foreclosure action plan?

A seizure action plan is a road map for school nurses and teachers to help your child if a seizure occurs at school. It includes information about the type of seizure, how your child's seizure occurs, and whether there is any anticonvulsant medication that should be used while the seizure is happening to shorten the seizures, or how to contact the family if seizures are prolonged.

How harmful are seizures?

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

How are crises monitored?

This depends on the type of crisis. For absence seizures that are a subtle gaze, this depends on your observation of how often this happens to your child. For those patients where continuous monitoring is not possible or practical, it is helpful to ask and talk to your doctor about ongoing video EEG monitoring. This could be useful for those subtle cracks that are less detectable by visual inspection. For those patients who have nocturnal seizures where it is not practical to monitor continuously when everyone is asleep, video EEG monitoring can also be very helpful in determining seizure frequency. For those patients who have generalized tonic-clonic seizures where there are jerky movements, there are FDA-cleared devices, hand-held devices, that can detect these generalized tonic-clonic seizures based on the movements.

What is medically resistant epilepsy? Seizures that cannot be controlled with medication.

About a third of epilepsy patients may continue to have seizures despite appropriate treatment. In these patients, evaluation for surgery may be an option. Epilepsy surgery may be an option for those patients who have 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 may 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 in with your observation of the different type or types of seizures you've noticed, find out how long the seizures last, and keep a seizure diary so you and your doctor and care team can track the frequency of your seizures. your judgments.

Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (1) Diagnosis of your condition

EEG brain activity

Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (2)

EEG brain activity

OneEEGit records your brain's electrical activity through electrodes attached to your scalp.EEGThe results show changes in brain activity that may be useful in diagnosing brain diseases, particularly epilepsy and other seizures.

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

The CT scan

Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (3)

The CT scan

ONECTThe scan can see almost all parts of the body and is used to diagnose disease or injury as well as to plan medicine, surgery or radiation therapy.

Locating the location of the seizure

Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (4)

Locating the location of the seizure

This example showsSPECTscans taken during and between seizures. The differences represent areas where blood flow increased during the seizure. Once detected, this location is adjusted to oneMRIbrain scan.

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

  • Neurological examination.This test checks your behavior, motor skills, 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 test.In some people with epilepsy, genetic testing can provide more information about the condition and how to treat it. Genetic testing is most often done in children, but may also be helpful in some adults with epilepsy.

You may also 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 your brain's electrical activity.

    If you have epilepsy, it's common to have changes in the typical pattern of your brain waves. These changes happen even when you don't have a seizure. Your health care provider can watch you on video during a sessionEEGto identify and record any crises you experience. This can be done while you are awake or asleep. Recording your seizures can help you determine what type of seizures you're having or rule out other conditions.

    The test can be done in a health care provider's office or hospital. If necessary, you can also have a walkerEEG, which you wear at home while theEEGrecords seizure activity over the course of a few days.

    You may be instructed to do something that may trigger seizures, such as getting some sleep before the test.

  • High densityEEG.In a variant of anEEGtest, you may have high densityEEG, which places the electrodes closer than conventional onesEEG. High densityEEGcan help you determine more precisely which areas of your brain are affected by seizures.
  • Computed tomography (CT).ONECTThe scan uses X-rays to take cross-sectional images of your brain.CTScans can detect tumours, bleeding or cysts in the brain which may be causing epilepsy.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).OneMRIuses powerful magnets and radio waves to create a detailed image of the brain. As aCTscan, anMRIexamines the structure of the brain to detect what may be causing seizures. But oneMRIprovides a more detailed look at the brain than aCTscan.
  • OperatingMRI(fMRI).A functional oneMRIit measures the changes in blood flow that occur when specific parts of the brain are working. This test can be used before surgery to identify the exact locations of critical functions, such as speech and movement, so that surgeons can avoid injuring these areas during surgery.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET). PETThe scans use a small amount of low-dose radioactive material injected into a vein to help visualize the brain's metabolic activity and detect changes. Areas of the brain with low metabolism may indicate sites where seizures occur.
  • Single photon emission electron tomography (SPECT).This type of test is mainly used ifMRIandEEGhe did not pinpoint the location in the brain from which the seizures originate.

    ONESPECTThe test uses a small amount of low-dose radioactive material injected into a vein to create a detailed, three-dimensional map of blood flow activity in the brain during seizures. Areas of higher than typical blood flow during a seizure may indicate places where seizures are occurring.

    Another guySPECTtest called ictal subtractionSPECTco-registered toMRI(SISCOM) can provide even more detailed results by overlaying itSPECTresults with the brainMRIResults.

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

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

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

  • Statistical parametric mapping (SPM). SPMis a method of comparing areas of the brain that have increased blood flow during seizures with the same areas of the brain in people who do not have seizures. This provides information about where the seizures start.
  • Electrical source imaging (ESI). ESIit's a technique that takesEEGdata and displays it in aMRIof the brain to show the areas where seizures occur. This technique provides more detail thanEEGsingle.
  • Magnetoencephalography (MEG). MEGmeasures magnetic fields produced by brain activity. This helps identify potential areas where seizures start.MEGmay be more accurate thanEEGbecause the skull and the tissues surrounding the brain interfere less with magnetic fields than with electrical impulses.MEGandMRItogether they provide images showing areas of the brain affected by seizures and unaffected by seizures.

Accurately diagnosing the type of seizures and where the seizures start gives you the best chance of finding an effective treatment.

Care at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic's expert care team can help you with epilepsy-related health concerns Start here

More information

  • Epilepsy care at the Mayo Clinic
  • The CT scan
  • EEG (electroencephalogram)
  • MRI
  • Positron emission tomography
  • SPECT scan
  • Frequently asked questions about epilepsy
  • Infographic: Epilepsy in Adults: Identifying Seizures
  • Infographic: Epilepsy and Brain Mapping


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

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


Most people with epilepsy can get rid of seizures by taking an anticonvulsant drug, also called an anticonvulsant drug. Others may be able to reduce the frequency and intensity of their seizures by taking a combination of medications.

Many children with epilepsy who do not have epilepsy symptoms are eventually able to stop the medication and live a seizure-free life. Many adults can stop the drugs after two or more years without seizures. Your healthcare team can advise you about the right time to stop taking medication.

Finding the right medication and dosage can be complicated. Your provider may consider your condition, seizure frequency, age, and other factors when choosing which drug to prescribe. Your provider may also look at any other medications you may be taking to make sure the antiseizure medications won't interact with them.

You can take a single drug at a relatively low dose first and then increase the dose gradually until your seizures are well controlled.

There are more than 20 different types of anticonvulsant drugs available. The medicines 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 drugs 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 serious but rare side effects include:

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

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

  • You take the medicines exactly as prescribed.
  • Always call your health care provider before switching to a generic version of your medication or taking other medications — those you get with or without a prescription — or herbal remedies.
  • Never stop taking your medicine without talking to your healthcare provider.
  • Tell your healthcare provider right away if you notice new or increased feelings of depression, suicidal thoughts, or unusual changes in your mood or behavior.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have migraines. Your provider may prescribe one of the antiepileptic drugs that can prevent your migraines and treat epilepsy.

At least half of people newly diagnosed with epilepsy do not have seizures with their first drug. If anti-seizure medications do not provide good results, you may be able to undergo surgery or other treatments. You will likely have regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider to evaluate your condition and medications.


Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (5) Epilepsy surgery

When medications do not provide adequate seizure control,epilepsy surgerymay be an option. With epilepsy surgery, a surgeon removes the area of ​​your brain that causes seizures.

Surgery usually happens when tests show that:

  • Your judgments come from a small, well-defined area of ​​your brain.
  • The area of ​​your brain to be operated on does not interfere with vital functions such as speech, language, motor function, vision or hearing.

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

Although you may still need some medication to prevent seizures after successful surgery, you may be able to take less medication and lower your doses.

In a small number of people, surgery for epilepsy can cause complications such as permanently changing thinking abilities. Talk to members of your surgical team 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 electrode 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 into the brain. The amount of stimulation delivered by the lead is controlled by a pacemaker-like device placed under the skin on the chest. A wire that travels under the skin connects the device to the electrode.

Deep brain stimulation MRI

Epilepsy - Diagnosis and treatment (8)

Deep brain stimulation MRI

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

In addition to drugs and surgery, these potential treatments offer an alternative for treating epilepsy:

  • Vagus nerve stimulation.Vagus nerve stimulation may be an option when medications have not worked well enough to control seizures and surgery is not possible. In vagus nerve stimulation, a device called a vagus nerve stimulator is implanted under the skin of the chest, similar to a heart pacemaker. Wires from the stimulator connect to the vagus nerve in the neck.

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

    Most people still need to take anti-seizure medication, although some people may be able to reduce the dose of their medication. Side effects of vagus nerve stimulation may include a sore throat, hoarse voice, shortness of breath, or cough.

  • Deep brain stimulation.In deep brain stimulation, surgeons implant electrodes in a specific part of the brain, usually the thalamus. The electrodes are connected to a generator implanted in the chest. The generator sends regular electrical pulses to the brain at set intervals and can reduce seizures. Deep brain stimulation is often used for people whose seizures do not improve with medication.
  • Responsive neurostimulation.These implantable pacemaker-like devices can greatly help reduce the incidence of seizures. These responsive stimulation devices analyze patterns of brain activity to detect seizures as they begin and deliver an electrical charge or drug to stop the seizure before it causes damage. Research shows that this treatment has few side effects and can provide long-term relief from seizures.

Ketogenic diet

Some children and adults with epilepsy have been able to reduce their seizures by following a strict high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. This may be an option when medications do not help control epilepsy.

In this diet, called the 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 the 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 believe the diet creates chemical changes that suppress seizures. The diet also changes how brain cells work to reduce seizures.

Get medical advice if you or your child are considering a ketogenic diet. It is important to make sure your child is not malnourished when following the diet.

Side effects of a ketogenic diet can include dehydration, constipation, stunted growth due to nutritional deficiencies, and a build-up of uric acid in the blood, which can cause kidney stones. These side effects are uncommon if the diet is properly and medically controlled.

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

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

Possible future treatments

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

  • Continuous stimulation of the seizure initiation zone, known as subthreshold stimulation.Subthreshold stimulation — continuous stimulation of an area of ​​the brain below a level that is 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 begin in an area of ​​the brain called the eloquent area that cannot be removed because it will affect speech and motor functions. Or it may benefit people whose seizure characteristics mean that the chances of successful treatment with responsive neurostimulation are low.
  • Minimally invasive surgery.New minimally invasive surgical techniques, such asMRI-Guided focused ultrasound, promises to treat epileptic seizures. These surgeries have fewer risks than traditional open brain surgeries for epilepsy.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMSapplies focused magnetic fields to areas of the brain where seizures occur to treat seizures without the need for surgery. It can be used in patients whose seizures occur near the surface of the brain and cannot be treated with surgery.
  • External trigeminal nerve stimulation.Similar to vagus nerve stimulation, a device stimulates specific nerves to reduce the frequency of seizures. But unlike vagus nerve stimulation, the device is worn outside the body, so no surgery is required to place the device in the body. In studies, external stimulation of the trigeminal nerve provided improvements in both seizure control and mood.

Pacemaker for epilepsy

You see, a seizure is an abnormal electrical disturbance in 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 activates electrical stimulation and stops the seizures.

More information

  • Epilepsy care at the Mayo Clinic
  • Neurontin Side Effects: How Can 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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Clinical tests

Explore the Mayo Clinic studiestesting new treatments, interventions and tests as a means of preventing, detecting, treating or managing this condition.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Understanding your condition can help you better control it:

  • Take your medicine correctly.Do not adjust your dose before talking to a member of your healthcare team. If you think your medication needs to be changed, discuss it with your provider.
  • Sleep enough.Lack of sleep can cause seizures. Make sure you get enough rest every night.
  • Wear a medical bracelet.This will help emergency personnel know how to treat you properly.
  • Excercise.Exercise can help keep you physically fit and reduce depression. Make sure to drink enough water and rest if you get tired during exercise.

Additionally, make healthy lifestyle choices, such as managing stress, limiting alcoholic beverages, and avoiding cigarettes.

Handling and support

Uncontrollable crises and their impact on your life can 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 deal with:

  • Educate yourself and your friends and familyabout epilepsy to understand the situation.
  • Try to ignore people's negative reactions.It helps to learn about epilepsy so you know the facts as opposed to the misconceptions about the disease. And try to keep your sense of humor.
  • Live as independently as possible.Keep working if possible. If you are unable to drive because of your seizures, explore public transportation options near you. If you are not allowed to drive, you may want to consider moving to a city with good public transportation options.
  • Find a healthcare provider you likeand who you feel comfortable with.
  • Try not to worry all the timefor a seizure.
  • Find an epilepsy support groupto meet people who understand what you are going through.

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

Let the people you work and live with know the right way to deal with a crisis in case they are with you when you have one. You can make suggestions to them, such as:

  • Carefully roll the person to one side to prevent suffocation.
  • Place something soft under the person's head.
  • Relax a tight neck.
  • Do not try to put your fingers or anything else in the person's mouth. People with epilepsy will not "swallow" their tongue during a seizure — it's physically impossible.
  • Do not try to restrain someone who is having a seizure.
  • If the person is moving, remove the hazardous objects.
  • If immediate medical attention is needed, stay with the person until medical personnel arrive.
  • Observe the person carefully so that you can provide details of what happened.
  • Time the crises.
  • Stay calm during seizures.

Preparing for your appointment

You are likely to start with your primary care provider. However, when you call to make an appointment, you may be immediately referred to a specialist. This specialist may be a doctor trained in diseases of the brain and nervous system, known as a neurologist, or a neurologist trained in epilepsy, known as an epileptologist.

Because dates can be short and because there's often a lot to talk about, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your date. Here is some information to help you prepare for your appointment and what to expect.

What can you do

  • Keep a detailed crisis diary.Each time a seizure occurs, note the time, the type of seizure you experienced, and how long it lasted. Also note any conditions, such as missed medications, sleep deprivation, increased stress, menstruation, or other events that may trigger seizures.

    Ask people who may notice your seizures, including family, friends, and colleagues, to record information you may not know.

  • Be aware of any restrictions before the appointment.At the time of your appointment, ask if there is anything you need to do beforehand, such as restricting your diet.
  • Record basic personal information,including any major stressors or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications,vitamins or supplements you take.
  • Take a family member or friend along.Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information you are given during an appointment. Someone accompanying you may remember something you lost or forgot.

    Also, because you may not know everything that happens when you have a seizure, someone else who has seen your seizures may be able to answer questions during your appointment.

  • Write questions to askyour health care provider. Preparing a list of questions will help you get the most out of your appointment time.

For epilepsy, some key questions include:

  • What is likely to be causing my seizures?
  • What kind of tests do I need?
  • Is my epilepsy likely to be temporary or chronic?
  • What treatment approach do you recommend?
  • What are the alternatives to the mainstream approach that you suggest?
  • How can I make sure 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 I need to follow?
  • Should I see a specialist? What will this cost and will my insurance cover it?
  • Is there a generic alternative to your prescription drug?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material I can take home with me? What sites do you recommend?

In addition to the questions you have prepared, feel free to ask questions during your appointment anytime you don't understand something.

What to expect from your doctor

Your healthcare provider is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:

  • When did you first start having seizures?
  • Do your seizures seem to be triggered by certain events or situations?
  • Do you have similar sensations just before the onset of a seizure?
  • Were your seizures frequent or occasional?
  • What symptoms do you have when you have seizures?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your judgments?
  • What, if anything, seems to make your judgments worse?

What can you do in the meantime?

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

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

It's also important to start keeping a seizure log before your appointment.

By the Mayo Clinic staff

(Video) Focal or Partial Epilepsy: Diagnosis and Treatment


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.

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.

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 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.

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.

What drugs should epileptics avoid? ›

Diphenhydramine and other antihistamines used for treating allergies can increase seizure susceptibility, with the increased risk extending beyond the course of treatment. Pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, and dextromethorphan are all used to alleviate cold symptoms, particularly congestion.

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 is the latest treatment for epilepsy? ›

The latest treatments include: Deep brain stimulation. This is the use of a device that is placed permanently deep inside the brain. The device releases regularly timed electrical signals that disrupt seizure-inducing activity.

What is the prognosis for epilepsy? ›

It is estimated that up to 70% of people living with epilepsy could live seizure-free if properly diagnosed and treated. The risk of premature death in people with epilepsy is up to three times higher than for the general population.

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 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.

What can you not do when you have epilepsy? ›

People with uncontrolled seizures should avoid dangerous activities like scuba diving, rock climbing, skydiving, hang gliding, and mountain climbing. These sports require full concentration, and any episode of loss of consciousness may lead to injury and possible death.

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

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

How hard is it to live with epilepsy? ›

From the fear of seizures and nasty falls to recurring anxiety and stress, living with epilepsy can be downright overwhelming at times. However, there are ways to manage, diminish and even prevent some of the effects epilepsy has on your day-to-day activities – without feeling as though you're missing out.

How long does epilepsy medication take to work? ›

How Long Does It Take For Seizure Medicines To Reach The Bloodstream? A dose of medication will reach a peak, or maximum, level in the blood 30 minutes to 4 or 6 hours after it is taken. The peak time varies for different drugs.

What is the most common anti epileptic drug? ›

Summary of Antiepileptic Drugs
Narrow-spectrum AEDs:Broad-spectrum AEDs:
- carbamazepine (Tegretol)- topiramate (Topamax)
- oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)- zonisamide (Zonegran)
- gabapentin (Neurontin)- levetiracetam (Keppra)
- pregabalin (Lyrica)- clonazepam (Klonopin)
4 more rows

What is the most prescribed medication for epilepsy? ›

Below are 10 of the most common.
  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal) Lamotrigine (Lamictal) can be used for both focal onset and generalized seizures. ...
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin) ...
  • Levetiracetam (Keppra, Spritam) ...
  • Phenytoin (Dilantin) ...
  • Zonisamide (Zonegran) ...
  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol) ...
  • Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal) ...
  • Topiramate (Topamax)
Apr 28, 2022

What drinks are good for epilepsy? ›

Generally speaking, most people with epilepsy should be OK to drink coffee, tea, soda and other caffeinated drinks in small quantities without any serious risk of increasing the number of seizures they have.

What medications make epilepsy worse? ›

Stimulants. Stimulants are medications used to treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Examples include amphetamine salt combo (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin). Stimulants have been thought to worsen seizures in people with epilepsy.

Is caffeine bad for epileptics? ›

Caffeine can increase seizure susceptibility and protect from seizures, depending on the dose, administration type (chronic or acute), and the developmental stage at which caffeine exposure started. In animal studies, caffeine decreased the antiepileptic potency of some drugs; this effect was strongest in topiramate.

How much is SSI for epilepsy? ›

How much is a disability check for epilepsy? The average Social Security disability benefit for someone with epilepsy or a similar neurocognitive condition is $1,377.36 per month. The maximum possible disability payment is about $3,600 per month for SSDI and $914 per month for SSI in 2023.

How hard is it to get SSI for epilepsy? ›

Epilepsy disability claims can be somewhat difficult. This means that if the epileptic seizures are not frequent and well documented there is a very slim chance of being approved for Social Security disability benefits.

Is epilepsy a form of autism? ›

No. Not all autistic children will develop seizures. In fact, only a minority will. Similarly, not all children with epilepsy will have autism.

What is the new treatment for epilepsy 2023? ›

In a new study, researchers report that sodium selenate could be the first curative drug therapy for epilepsy.

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.

Is epilepsy a form of brain damage? ›

Although scientists and clinicians have long known that prolonged seizures, a condition referred to as "status epilepticus," kill brain cells, surprisingly little scientific evidence exists to support the notion that individual seizures do damage.

What organs are affected by epilepsy? ›

Epilepsy is a neurological condition involving the brain that makes people more susceptible to having recurrent seizures. It is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system and affects people of all ages, races, and ethnic background.

Is epilepsy considered brain damage? ›

Most types of seizures do not cause damage to the brain. However, having a prolonged, uncontrolled seizure can cause harm. Because of this, treat any seizure lasting over 5 minutes as a medical emergency.

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.

What can an MRI show after a seizure? ›

After the first seizure, MRI can be used to identify any serious disorder that may have provoked the seizure, such as a brain tumor or arteriovenous malformation (a blood vessel abnormality). It can help determine the proper seizure type and syndrome.

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.

Do blood tests show epilepsy? ›

Blood tests, an Electroencephalogram (EEG) and scans are used to gather information for a diagnosis. Tests on their own cannot confirm or rule out epilepsy.

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.

What is epilepsy protocol? ›

MRI protocol for epilepsy is a group of MRI sequences put together to improve sensitivity and specificity in identifying possible structural abnormalities that underlie seizure disorders (e.g. mesial temporal sclerosis and malformation of cortical development).

What triggered my 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.

What can calm down 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.

What are some triggers for 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.

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.

When is epilepsy usually diagnosed? ›

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.

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.

Can a brain scan tell if you have epilepsy? ›

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.

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.

Can you drive if you have epilepsy? ›

To get a driver's license in most U.S. states, a person with epilepsy must be free of seizures that affect consciousness for a certain period of time. The seizure-free period varies from state to state. More recently, shorter intervals of seizure freedom are being required, for example 3 to 6 months.

What are the 5 stages of epilepsy? ›

Generalized tonic-clonic seizures are characterized by five distinct phases that occur in the child. The body, arms, and legs will flex (contract), extend (straighten out), tremor (shake), a clonic period (contraction and relaxation of the muscles), followed by the postictal period.

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.

How does a neurologist check for seizures? ›

An electroencephalogram (EEG).

In this test, electrodes attached to your scalp record the electrical activity of your brain. The electrical activity shows up as wavy lines on an EEG recording. The EEG may reveal a pattern that tells whether a seizure is likely to occur again.

Does epilepsy show up in blood tests? ›

A neurologist will also use blood tests, imaging scans, and EEGs to determine if you have epilepsy. If you receive a diagnosis, they'll use different techniques to identify the types of seizures that you're having.


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


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