All You Need To Know About Epilepsy Tests
Diagnosing epilepsy requires patience and it doesn’t happen in one visit to the doctor’s office. However, if you follow the procedure, your doctor can find out if the disease is resulting in seizures and also provide effective treatment for it.
The doctor can determine whether you have epilepsy upon observing your symptoms before, during, and after the seizure attack. Since doctors are unlikely to be around if you have them, they’ll run a series of tests and ask lots of questions to help get the correct diagnosis.
To find out if you have epilepsy, your doctor will order some or all of the following tests:
Different Types of Epilepsy Tests
Electroencephalogram (EEG) – This is the most common epilepsy test. During this test, the doctor places sensors on your scalp that can detect electrical activity in your brain. If they see a change in the normal pattern of brain waves, it signals a symptom. Many people with epilepsy have an abnormal EEG.
You can take this while sleeping or consciously. Your doctor can record a video to see how your body reacts during a seizure. This test usually takes a night or two in the hospital.
Computed tomography (CT) scan – It uses X-rays to create images of your brain. This can help your doctor rule out other causes of seizures such as tumours, bleeding, swelling, and cysts.
Blood test- They also help identify other causes of seizures such as genetic diseases or infections.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)- The MRI test is another epilepsy test that allows your doctor to look at your brain structure. It may indicate damaged tissue causing the seizure.
Functional MRI (fMRI)- This type of MRI shows which parts of the brain consume more oxygen when you talk, move, or perform certain tasks. This will help your doctor avoid these areas if they need to perform surgery on your brain.
Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)- Like MRI, MRS creates images. They help doctors compare how different parts of your brain function. Unlike an MRI, an MRS doesn’t view your entire brain at once. It only focuses on the part of the brain that your doctor would like to examine more closely.
Positron emission tomography (PET scan)- During this test, your doctor will inject a radioactive material into a vein in your arm, which will get accumulated in your brain. It helps check for damage by showing which part of the brain is consuming more or less glucose. A PET scan will help your doctor see changes in brain chemistry and spot problems.
Single-photon emission computational tomography (SPECT)- This two-part test will help your doctor understand where seizures start in your brain. As with a PET scan, the doctor injects a small amount of radioactive material into a vein to exhibit blood flow. This test is repeated if you have no seizures and the differences between the scans are compared.
Neuropsychological tests- Your doctor will test your speech, thinking, cognitive abilities, and memory skills to see if any areas of your brain have been affected by a seizure.
Questions You Can Expect from Your Doctor
Your doctor will need to know all about your seizures to arrive at the correct diagnosis and prepare a treatment plan. During your tests, the doctor will ask questions about your medical history. It might be helpful to bring someone along who may have seen you having seizures. This way they could answer the following questions better-
- How old were you when the seizures started?
- What caused the seizures? Does it happen when you are tired, stressed, or hungry?
- How did you feel physically and emotionally prior to the attack?
- Did you smell or taste something strange before the seizures?
- Did you fall unconscious or feel confused during the seizures?
- Do you mumble or speak properly?
- Has your skin color or breathing changed?
- Did you fall, shake, or go completely limp?
- How long does a seizure last?
Techniques for Epilepsy Diagnosis
Along with these tests, your doctor can conduct a few analytical techniques to determine where a brain seizure begins:
Mapping Parametric Statistics (SPM)- This is a method that compares areas of the brain that have increased metabolism during seizures with normal brains. This gives doctors an idea of where the seizures begin.
Curry analysis- Curry analysis uses EEG data that is projected onto an MRI of the brain to show your doctor where a seizure occurs.
Magnetic encephalography (MEG)- This measures the magnetic field generated by the brain activity to identify potential seizure areas.
Epilepsy can be scary for those who suffer from it. It can become a hindrance to a normal lifestyle, general wellbeing, daily activities, and work. An accurate diagnosis of your seizure type and where it started through various epilepsy tests will give you the best chance of finding an effective treatment.