Health A-Z

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You may not have any seizure symptoms when you visit your doctor's office. For this reason, it is important to enlist the help of anyone who has witnessed your seizure. Ask that person to describe exactly what they saw: what happened at the start, what happened next. Write this description down for your doctor. This description will help your doctor determine the type of seizure you had. It will also help to decide on appropriate treatment.

Having a seizure does not mean that a person has epilepsy. For example, it's common for children to have seizures associated with fever. Most children who have them do not develop epilepsy.

Your doctor will diagnose epilepsy based on:

  • Your history

  • A thorough physical examination

  • A thorough neurological examination

  • The results of an electroencephalogram (EEG)

In many cases, your doctor will also order a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain. Other types of brain scans also may be needed.

Your doctor may want to check whether your seizures are related to causes outside the brain. To do so, he or she may order basic lab tests. These can include blood tests, urinalysis and an electrocardiogram (EKG).

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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