If your doctor believes that you might be having epileptic seizures, they will likely send you to get an epilepsy test. Tests for epilepsy can help doctors figure out what is causing your seizures.
So, what should you expect from your epilepsy test?
What is the purpose of epilepsy testing?
Having an epilepsy test can help diagnose the cause of your seizures. Doctors will look at the results of these tests as well as your medical history and descriptions of what happens during your seizures. After the tests are done, a neurologist (brain doctor) or an epileptologist (epilepsy specialist doctor) will review the test results. This information can help them to:
- Figure out if you have epilepsy
- Work out what kind of epilepsy you have
- Determine what is causing it
What happens during a diagnosis test for epilepsy?
When you go for epilepsy testing you will normally go to a neurology department at your local hospital, or a dedicated epilepsy center. You will be met by a doctor, nurses and a technician (someone trained to do epilepsy tests).
Sometimes, tests for epilepsy can be done in just a couple of hours. Other times, you may need to stay overnight or even spend a few days in the center.
Your visit: What to expect at an epilepsy monitoring unit
Common tests for epilepsy
There are many different kinds of tests for epilepsy, but the following are the most common.
- Blood test for epilepsy
In this test, the technician will take a sample of your blood. The aim is to rule out other possible causes of seizures (such as diabetes or low blood sugar).
- Electroencephalogram (EEG)
An EEG is a special test for measuring brain activity. Sensors will be attached to your scalp, and they can record brain wave patterns. People with epilepsy often have very specific types of brainwave, especially when they’re having seizures. The EEG machine can record when these brain waves happen. It can also give doctors an idea of which part of your brain the seizures start in. Read more about EEG scans.
- CT scan
A CT scan is a type of X-ray. It can create an image of your brain, and reveal tumors, scarring, or other damage that could be causing your seizures.
- MRI scan
Magnetic resonance imaging produces a detailed picture of the structure of your brain. Like with CT scans, it provides a detailed picture of your brain and will show up any physical changes which might be causing the seizures. Read more about MRI scans.
Remember that while tests are very helpful, they cannot always diagnose epilepsy the first time. Some people might need to have more than one round of epilepsy testing.
Preparation: 15 seizure questions to ask your neurologist
Getting ready for your epilepsy test
Epilepsy testing is a really important part of diagnosing your seizures, and for finding out why they are happening. If you are at all worried about having epilepsy tests, speak to your doctor. They can give you more information about what each test is for, and how it works.
Once you have completed your diagnosis tests for epilepsy, you and your doctor can work together to create a treatment plan for your epilepsy.