Epilepsy refers a condition in which there is a tendency to experience recurring seizures.
Unfortunately, there is no absolutely reliable diagnostic test for epilepsy; however, there are a number of methods used to support a diagnosis.
The most useful tool to a neurologist making an assessment is a description of the event from the patient and a capable witness who can clearly describe the features of the episode. The neurologist will be interested in the duration of the symptoms, the type of symptoms (i.e. motor or sensory), tongue biting or incontinence, the patient’s level of awareness during the episode, the frequency of the attacks and the time of day that they occur.
The neurologist will also be interested in the patient’s history- such as any complications during birth, head trauma, brain infections, family history of epilepsy, drug use i.e. prescribed, recreational and alcohol.
An Electroencephalogram (EEG) test may be recommended as it is sometimes able to detect abnormalities in the electrical activity of the brain typical to epilepsy. This method of investigation cannot be used as an absolute test for epilepsy as the EEG is not necessarily conclusive in either confirming or refuting a diagnosis. However, it is useful in supporting a diagnosis of epilepsy and is particularly useful in identifying the type of partial seizure being experienced.
An Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computed Tomography (CT) scan may be used to identify the cause for a seizure if the symptoms are atypical; this may discover for example, a tumour or stroke as the cause of the episode.
Blood tests may be used to rule out other causes for the seizure, such as disturbances in blood chemistry.