Epilepsy

  • Alternative Names

    Temporal lobe epilepsy; Seizure disorder


    Symptoms

    The severity of symptoms can vary greatly, from simple staring spells to loss of consciousness and violent convulsions. For most people with epilepsy, each seizure is similar to previous ones. The type of seizure a person has depends on a variety of things, such as the part of the brain affected and the underlying cause of the seizure.

    An aura consisting of a strange sensation (such as tingling, smelling an odor that isn't actually there, or emotional changes) occurs in some people prior to each seizure.

    For a detailed description of the symptoms associated with a specific type of seizure, see:

    • Absence (petit mal) seizure
    • Generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure
    • Partial (focal) seizure

    Signs and tests

    A physical examination (including a detailed neurologic examination) may be normal, or it may show abnormal brain function related to specific areas of the brain.

    People with epilepsy will often have abnormal electrical activity seen on an electroencephalograph (EEG). (An EEG is a reading of the electrical activity in the brain.) In some cases, the test may show the location in the brain where the seizures start. EEGs can often be normal after a seizure or between seizures, so it may be necessary to perform a longer test.

    Various blood tests and other tests looking for temporary and reversible causes of seizures, may include:

    • Blood chemistry
    • Blood sugar
    • CBC (complete blood count)
    • CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) analysis
    • Kidney function tests
    • Liver function tests
    • Tests for infectious diseases

    Tests for the cause and location of the problem may include:

    • EEG
    • Head CT or MRI scan
    • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)