Diagnosing epilepsy

Getting a diagnosis is not always easy as there is no single test that can diagnose epilepsy. Doctors gather lots of different information to assess the causes of seizures. 

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Diagnosing epilepsy

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Someone using our OCT machine

If you have had two or more seizures that started in the brain you may be diagnosed with epilepsy. 

If there is a possibility that you have epilepsy, NICE recommends that you are referred to a specialist, (a doctor who is trained in diagnosing and treating epilepsy) within two weeks.

Your diagnosis is based on finding out what happened to you before, during and after your seizures. For example, some types of faints can look like epileptic seizures, and often before fainting a person feels cold, clammy and their vision goes blurry. But epileptic seizures happen very suddenly and a person may have no warning that a seizure is about to happen. 

Tests for 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.

Brain scans

In order for a person to be suitable for surgery, it is necessary to confirm that seizures are arising from one part of the brain and that it is safe to remove this part. This requires many tests including MRI brain scans.

EEG (Electroencephalogram)

An Electroencephalogram (EEG) records the electrical activity of the brain by picking up the electrical signals from the brain cells. These signals are picked up by electrodes attached to the head and are recorded on paper or on a computer. The recording shows how the brain is working.

Just diagnosed

This booklet was created with the help of people with epilepsy, and includes their views and experiences,  and their quotes at the bottom of some of the pages.  It also includes information on topics people told us  they would have found helpful when they were diagnosed with epilepsy. 

Diagnosis leaflet

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