One in 20 people has a single seizure in their lives, but epilepsy is a tendency to have seizures. So you probably wouldn’t be told you have epilepsy unless you have more than one seizure.
When someone first says they think you have had a seizure, you might feel lots of different things. It’s not an easy time. You might think it can’t be true. You might be quite anxious, not knowing what has happened. And your parents might be quite anxious too. The sooner you see your doctor, the sooner you start getting answers to your questions.
Talking to your doctor
When you’ve had something that might be a seizure you’ll need to talk about this with the hospital doctor or your GP. They will ask lots of questions about your seizure. They’ll want to know anything you can tell them about how you felt before and after it. It will also be really useful for them to talk to someone who saw you have the seizure. This is because you probably won’t remember much about what happened.
How do doctors diagnose epilepsy?
The doctor will want to know all about what happened to you. They’ll need to check whether there was anything other than epilepsy which may explain what happened to you. When they have done that they will refer you to the right specialist. If you are under 16 this will probably be a paediatrician with training and expertise in epilepsy. If you’re 16 or over this will usually be a neurologist with training and expertise in epilepsy.
They will probably want you to have a test called an electroencephalogram (EEG) and sometimes they will also ask for test called a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The EEG involves sticking electrodes on your head. These monitor the electrical activity coming from your brain. It doesn’t hurt at all. And it only takes about 15 to 30 minutes.
The MRI is a scan of your brain, where you lay on a table and slide into a machine, a bit like a tunnel. The machine takes pictures of your brain and shows if there are any lumps and bumps which may help to explain why you’re having seizures. It doesn’t hurt at all, though it can be quite noisy.
The paediatrician or consultant will then put the results of all this information together to make a decision about whether you have epilepsy. If they decide you do, they will usually suggest you take anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs).
More information on getting the right care and treatment
Epilepsy Action would like to thank epilepsy specialist nurses Roz Atkinson, Janine Winterbottom and Carmel McGinn of Cardiff, Liverpool and County Fermanagh for their valuable contributions to this information.
This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.
- Updated December 2014To be reviewed December 2017