Diagnosis

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A doctor may perform a neurological exam and a complete physical exam to pinpoint the cause of the seizures and diagnose epilepsy. Tests used to diagnose epilepsy include:

  • An electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure the electrical activity of the brain
  • A spinal tap to collect spinal fluid for analysis
  • Imaging tests, like an MRI or CT scan, of the head

These blood tests are also commonly used to help diagnose epilepsy or rule out other disorders:

  • Tests of liver and kidney function
  • Blood glucose tests
  • Complete blood count and chemistry of the blood
  • Tests to diagnose or rule out any infectious diseases

Treatment

Epilepsy can be treated through multiple strategies. Usually medication is needed to control seizures and treat epilepsy; these commonly prescribed drugs are called anticonvulsants.

Medication alone can’t always stop or reduce seizures. A device called a vagus nerve stimulator may help treat epilepsy if you don’t get relief from medication. The stimulator is surgically placed in the chest. It electrically stimulates a large nerve (the vagus nerve) that runs through the neck. This device is successful in preventing seizures in some people, but even a vagus nerve stimulator can’t totally stop seizures from happening.

Some doctors recommend a special diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates to help manage epilepsy. This is called a ketogenic diet, and it may help more than half of people who haven’t improved on medicine alone.

If you can’t get good control over seizures with medications, diet, or a vagus nerve stimulator, brain surgery to correct the problem might be an option.

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