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
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.