Epilepsy: The Process of Diagnosis and Treatment. Part 1

Being diagnosed with a disease or disorder can be a very stressful life-altering experience. Being diagnosed with a seizure disorder – epilepsy — brings with it many questions and concerns. Understanding the process can help a patient understand and better cope with what is happening to them. Following is a simple guide to the process to help better explain what epilepsy is and how it is treated.

What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain that causes “seizures.” Seizures can come in many forms from convulsive attacks (tonic-clonic, formerly known as grand mal) to small ticks or staring spells (absence, formerly known as petit mal). Most doctors will consider epilepsy as a diagnosis after a patient has had two or more seizures. Epilepsy generally would not be considered in the case of febrile seizures (seizures associated with high fever).

What Causes Epilepsy?

Sometimes epilepsy can be caused by a head injury, birth trauma in a baby, tumors, or it can be genetic. However, many people who have epilepsy have no known cause. This is called Idiopathic Epilepsy. Regardless of the cause, doctors approach the treatment of the seizures in very much the same way.

What Happens After I Am Diagnosed?

After a patient has had a seizure, the doctor will generally order an EEG (electroencephalogram). This is a test that measures brain activity and will alert doctors to any abnormalities or irregularities. This test can also help doctors diagnose what type of seizure a patient is having. This is important in the treatment of the seizures as different drugs without a prescription target different seizure types. If this test shows seizure activity, the doctor may then have an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) test done to look at the physical brain to see if there are any abnormalities. Such abnormalities may include lesions or tumors that maybe causing the seizures, but that is not necessarily the case. This test is done to rule out any such abnormalities and, if such problems are present, to diagnose and treat them. If the doctor has not already done so, a general practitioner may now refer the patient to a neurologist or epileptologist. These doctors are specialists who are more familiar with disorders of the brain and epilepsy. Neurologists have trained to treat brain disorders of many types, which includes seizures. Epileptologits have further trained to treat seizure disorders alone and will treat only patients with epilepsy.