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Diagnosis of epilepsy

To diagnose epilepsy, your doctor will perform a thorough physical exam and take your medical history, including any family history of epilepsy. The doctor will ask you for details about previous seizure episodes, including what you experience, how often they happen, and if you’ve noticed anything that tends to bring them on. He or she may also order some tests, including:

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG), a noninvasive test that records the electrical activity of your brain
  • Portable EEG, which records your brain activity for several days
  • Blood tests
  • Lumbar puncture to examine your cerebrospinal fluid
  • Imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Obtaining an epilepsy diagnosis can get you on the path to treatment quickly. Early intervention may be able to reduce the number and severity of your seizures and improve your quality of life.

Treatment of epilepsy

Epilepsy can cause seizures that range from mild to debilitating. Epilepsy treatment aims to reduce the number and severity of seizures. In general, treatments for epilepsy include medications, treatment for underlying conditions, and sometimes surgery.

When you come to Dignity Health with symptoms of epilepsy, our skilled, caring neurologists can diagnose your movement disorder, as well as provide personalized epilepsy treatment in CA, NV, or AZ.

Treating the underlying cause of epilepsy

If your epilepsy is caused by abnormal blood vessels in the brain, an infection, a brain tumor, or some other treatable condition, your doctor probably will first address the underlying issue. Your treatment options might include surgery to repair blood vessels or remove tumors, medications to cure an infection, or another intervention your doctor determines is appropriate.

Sometimes, curing the underlying condition can cause the epilepsy to go away. If this is the case, your doctor may recommend simple monitoring and follow-up, with no other treatment required.

Anticonvulsant dedications

When the cause of epilepsy is unknown, or if treating an underlying condition did not stop seizures from occurring, your doctor may recommend you take an anticonvulsant medication.

There are many anti-seizure medications for epilepsy, and you may need to try more than one before finding one that works.

A few important considerations regarding anticonvulsant medications for epilepsy:

  • You may need routine blood testing to check for side effects.
  • You may need to have the dosage changed periodically.
  • Many anti-seizure medications can affect bone health. Talk to your doctor about maintaining healthy bones.
  • Women who take anti-seizure medications should discuss the issue with their doctor before getting pregnant because some of these medications can cause birth defects.

Options for epilepsy surgery

If your epilepsy doesn’t respond to medications, your doctor may recommend surgery. Currently, there are two main procedures for treating epilepsy:

  • Removal of small areas of brain tissue responsible for causing your seizures
  • Implantation of a vagal nerve stimulator (VNS), a device similar in size and function to a heart pacemaker
  • The treatment that is best for you may depend on the frequency and severity of your seizures. Find a neurologist who will work with you to design a treatment plan that addresses your medical concerns and lifestyle.

    Dignity Health offers several treatment options for epilepsy in Arizona, California, and Nevada, along with additional neurological conditions.