To find out if a child or adolescent has epilepsy, physicians look at several different pieces of information: the child’s symptoms, medical history, family history and diagnostic test results. If enough of the pieces fit together, the child may be diagnosed with epilepsy.
How Do Physicians Diagnose Epilepsy?
To figure out if a child or youth has epilepsy, their physician may:
- Ask questions about the child’s seizures and other symptoms. Learn about the symptoms of epilepsy.
- Ask about the child’s medical history and any health problems in their family.
- Do a physical exam to check for problems with the child’s brain and heart.
- Do laboratory tests to find out what may be causing the child’s seizures, which may include genetic testing. Learn more about genetic tests for epilepsy.
- Do a brain wave test called an electroencephalogram (EEG) to look for abnormal brain activity that could be causing seizures.
- Do diagnostic imaging tests to see if there is a change in the brain that could explain why the child is having seizures. Learn more about diagnostic imaging tests for epilepsy.
- Have the child stay in an epilepsy monitoring unit, a special part of the hospital where physicians can monitor the child for a few days using EEG. Find out what to expect in an epilepsy monitoring unit.
The Role of the Primary Care Physician in Epilepsy Diagnosis
Primary care physicians play an important role in epilepsy diagnosis. In the United States, high-quality primary care is essential, as only one-third of children with epilepsy have access to comprehensive health care. Primary care physicians provide most of the day-to-day care and treatment for about 40 percent of epilepsy patients. Additionally, children and youth with epilepsy who identified as people of color, reported lower incomes or were uninsured/insured through public programs (eg, Medicaid, Medicare) were less likely to receive specialty care and more likely to receive care through generalists.
What Happens if a Child or Adolescent Is Diagnosed with Epilepsy?
If a child or adolescent is diagnosed with epilepsy, their primary care physician may refer them to a subspecialist who treats pediatric epilepsy. Learn more about specialists who treat epilepsy.
There are many medications and other treatment options that can help keep seizures under control. Learn more about treatment options for epilepsy.
For more details, check out these helpful resources:
American Academy of Pediatrics