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diagnosing epilepsy

Because there is no obvious sign a person has epilepsy, unless they are having a seizure, it can make diagnosing epilepsy difficult. A diagnosis is usually made after a person has had more than one epileptic seizure.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produces guidelines for treating specific health conditions, in England and Wales. 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.

How epilepsy is diagnosed

To diagnose epilepsy, doctors gather lots of different information to assess the causes of seizures.

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.

EEG (electroencephalogram)

An EEG (Electroencephalogram) is one of the tests used to help diagnose epilepsy.

Brain scans

A brain scan may help to find the cause of your seizures. The two common types of brain scan are Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computerised Axial Tomography (CT or CAT).

A closer look at EEG

When someone has had seizures, and it is thought that they might have epilepsy, there are various tests that their specialist might ask for. Two of these tests are the electroencephalogram (EEG) and MRI.

Just diagnosed

Information to support you through a diagnosis of epilepsy.

All about epilepsy

All about epilepsy is a programme that explains epilepsy, how it is diagnosed, what seizures look like and how you can help someone who is having a seizure. 

A closer look at MRI

An MRI scan will not say for certain whether the person has epilepsy or not. But alongside other information, these might help the specialist to decide if epilepsy is a likely cause of the seizures.

Reactions to a diagnosis

A diagnosis of epilepsy can affect people in different ways. Getting information about epilepsy and asking questions can be helpful for some people.