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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have a seizure you may not remember what has happened. It can be helpful to have a description of what happened from someone who saw your seizure, to pass on to your GP or specialist.
Any diagnosis can be a shock, even if you are expecting it. You may feel numb, angry, confused or frightened. Or you may feel relieved – what’s been happening to you has a name and a treatment. Everyone has their own way of reacting to a new situation.
If you have just been diagnosed with epilepsy, you may see different people to help you manage your epilepsy. This might include a neurologist, an epilepsy specialist nurse and your GP.
Get a closer look at EEG including further information on brain waves, electrical signals and the 10-20 system.
Get a closer look at MRI including further information on atoms, protons and spectroscopy.
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.
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.