This information is relevant to people who live in the UK.
If you’ve had a seizure, your GP or the hospital where you attended A&E should arrange for you to see an epilepsy specialist. For adults, an epilepsy specialist is usually a neurologist. This means a doctor who’s an expert in conditions that affect the brain and nerves.
How will the specialist decide if I have epilepsy?
There are a number of conditions that can cause symptoms similar to epilepsy, so it can take a while to diagnose. The epilepsy specialist will make a diagnosis mainly based on your symptoms. They may also arrange for you to have some tests.
A description of your symptoms
Your specialist will want to know as much as possible about what happens to you during your seizures. You can help them by:
- Taking a detailed diary of your seizures to your appointments. This should show the dates, times and a description of what happened, and how you felt before and after
- Taking someone with you who has seen your seizures. Alternatively, a written description from someone who has seen your seizures would be really helpful
- Taking some video clips of your seizures to the appointment, if possible
Tests used in the diagnosis of epilepsy
Your specialist may also refer you for some tests to help them make their diagnosis. The most common tests are an EEG test and an MRI scan.
The EEG machine records the electrical signals from your brain on a computer. During the EEG test, an EEG specialist places harmless electrodes on your scalp, using a special glue or sticky tape. The electrodes are then connected to the EEG machine, which records the electrical signals onto a computer.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scan
An MRI scan uses a strong magnetic field to create pictures of tissues, organs and other structures inside the body, on a computer. Some people have epilepsy caused by damage or other problems in their brain, so an MRI scan can check for this.
Your specialist might ask you to have some other tests to check your general health and to see if any other conditions may be causing your symptoms. These might include blood tests or a test on your heart called an electrocardiogram (ECG).
What happens if I'm diagnosed with epilepsy?
If the epilepsy specialist diagnoses you with epilepsy, they should tell you what type of epilepsy you have and the name of your seizures. They should also give you information about your treatment options, and about living with epilepsy.
If you would like to know where our information is from, download a copy of this information with references.
Epilepsy Action would like to thank Dr John Paul Leach, consultant neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, for his contribution to this information.
Dr John Paul Leach has declared no conflict of interest.
This information has been produced under the terms of Epilepsy Action's information quality standards.
- Updated October 2020To be reviewed October 2023