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Epilepsy Symptoms and Diagnosis

Epilepsy Symptoms and Diagnosis

Seizures can involve symptoms such as a loss of consciousness, a range of unusual movements, odd feelings and sensations, or changed behaviour.

The brain controls the body’s actions, sensations and emotions through nerve cells that carry messages between the brain and the body. These messages are transmitted through regular electrical impulses. A seizure occurs when sudden bursts of electrical activity in the brain disrupt this pattern.

The kind of seizure and the parts of the body affected by it relates to the part of the brain in which the irregular electrical activity occurred.

How are Seizures Diagnosed?

There are many medical reasons why people lose consciousness, experience periods of time when they are ‘not quite with it’ or have unusual sensations. These include panic attacks, migraine, faints (sometimes called ‘syncope’), seizures, stroke and heart disease. A definite diagnosis is important, but because the person often has little or no memory of the event it can take time to come to the right answer.

The doctor will go through a series of steps:

  • Constructing a thorough medical history;
  • Physical examination of the patient;
  • Consulting with eyewitnesses of a seizure event; and/or
  • Additional medical tests depending upon the doctor’s initial assessment. These may include blood tests, an EEG [electroencephalogram], a CT scan [computerised tomography] or an MRI [magnetic resonance imaging].

Often it is a matter of simply waiting for a definite answer. More events may allow a clear diagnosis, or a further test may provide an answer. It is better to be a little uncertain rather than to jump to conclusions and make a wrong diagnosis.

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