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Diagnosis

It's unlikely that you will have seizure symptoms while you are in a doctor's office or emergency department. For this reason, it is important to ask anyone who witnessed your seizure to describe the event and to write it down for your doctor. This description can help your doctor determine the type of seizure you had.

The diagnosis is based primarily on your symptoms that are described. Usually, the physical exam and neurological examination are normal between spells. An adult who experiences a seizure for the first time will be evaluated with a head scan and blood tests to look for chemical imbalances. Your doctor will order either computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. Most people with a new diagnosis of seizure undergo an electroencephalogram (EEG), which monitors and records brain waves from a series of electrodes placed on the scalp. Specific abnormalities in brain wave patterns can help your doctor to determine what kind of seizure you may have. The EEG is a brief outpatient procedure.

Based on your history and test results, your doctor will decide if he or she has enough information to determine the type of seizure and cause. If not, your doctor may refer you to a neurologist for further evaluation.

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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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