Epilepsy and seizure disorders must be correctly diagnosed before treatment can be determined. During a patient's visit to their epilepsy specialist, a history and physical examination are performed. If epilepsy (or a clinical condition that looks like epileptic seizures) is suspected, the doctor will ask questions such as the following:
- What are spells like?
- At what age did they begin?
- How frequently do they occur? What provokes them?
- Are there other neurological symptoms or problems?
- Is there a family history of seizures or epilepsy?
The physical examination reveals clues that may help identify the cause of the seizures. The physical examination also helps determine the patient's overall health and any associated neurological problems. If questions remain about the diagnosis, additional tests may be needed.
Testing is highly individualized based on the patient's age and type of spell or seizure. No single test is appropriate for every patient. Numerous tests are possible. Some are routine, such as blood work, while others are very specialized. Important studies often used by epilepsy specialists and other neurologists are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomographic (CT), and electroencephalography (EEG).