Diagnosing Epilepsy

The first and most important step in providing a personalized optimal outcome is to reach an accurate diagnosis. While this sounds quite simple, oftentimes it is not. Seizures are a manifestation, a result of an underlying brain disorder, and additional personal information is critical to determining the cause of epileptic seizures. “When did your seizures begin? Do you have a warning before your seizures? What happens to you during your seizures?” Answers to these questions help us better understand the cause of epilepsy in each patient.

Evaluation and Medical History‚Äč

When patients are referred to Hoag Epilepsy Program, evaluations begin with a thorough exam and medical history, followed by a complete diagnostic workup. During the exam, patients may be asked the following questions related to their seizures:

Before the Spell:

  • Did you experience lack of sleep or unusual stress?
  • Were you sick recently?
  • Did your eyes, mouth, face, head, arms or legs move abnormally?
  • Were you able to talk and respond appropriately?
  • Did you lose control of your bladder or bowels?
  • Did you bite your tongue or the inside of your cheeks?

After the Spell:

  • Were you confused or tired?
  • Could you speak normally?
  • Did you have a headache?
  • Did your muscles ache?

Specific questions about a patient's medical history may include:

  • Was your birth difficult?
  • Did you have any seizures with high fevers when you were a baby or small child?
  • Did you ever have a head injury? If so, did you lose consciousness after the injury? How long were you unconscious? Were you taken to a hospital?
  • Did you ever have meningitis (an infection of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord) or encephalitis (a serious viral infection of the brain)?
  • Has anyone else in the family had epilepsy, any other neurological disorder, or a disorder associated with loss of consciousness?