EBSCO Health

Print PageSend to a Friend
Health Library Home>Conditions InDepth>Article

Diagnosis of Epilepsy

Your doctor will take a health history from you and your loved ones. You may be asked about:

  • Your past health history
  • Your family's health history
  • The medicines that you take
  • Your seizures:
    • How were you feeling before it happened?
    • How old were you when they started?
    • Was there any warning?
    • What did the seizure look like to others?
    • Were there any symptoms after the seizure, such as being unable to move, tongue biting, or loss of bladder function?
    • How long did it last?
    • How many have you had before?

Your doctor may do a physical exam. Special focus will be given to your nervous system. Tests will be done to see if you might have epilepsy, and if so, what type of seizures you have.

Placement of Sensors for an EEG

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • You may need to have your brain activity tested. This can be done with:
    • EEG
    • Magnetoencephalogram
  • You may need to have brain scans. These can be done with:
  • You may need to have your blood tested. Blood tests check for possible causes of the seizures, such as:
    • Metabolic problems with your blood levels of sugar, calcium, sodium, potassium, or magnesium
    • Problems with your genes
    • Infections, such as encephalitis, meningitis, or HIV
    • Lead poisoning
  • Urine tests may be done.
  • You may need a lumbar puncture to check the fluid in your brain and spinal cord.
  • You may need to have your motor skills, behaviors, and intelligence tested. This can be done with:
    • Developmental tests
    • Neurological tests
    • Behavioral tests

Diagnosing epilepsy. Epilepsy Foundation website. Available at: http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/diagnosing-epilepsy. Updated August 22, 2013. Accessed March 26, 2019.

Epilepsy in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115086/Epilepsy-in-adults. Updated November 9, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019.

Epilepsy in children. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900174/Epilepsy-in-children. Updated March 22, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019.

Epilepsy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Epilepsy-Information-Page. Updated June 18, 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019.

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). The epilepsies: the diagnosis and management of the epilepsies in adults and children in primary and secondary care. NICE 2012 Jan:CG137.

Seizure disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/seizure-disorders/seizure-disorders. Updated November 2018. Accessed March 26, 2019.

Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD  Last Updated: 3/26/2019