Seizure Diagnosis and Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 22, 2021

To decide if your "spells" are seizures, your doctor will do an exam and ask you detailed questions about your health and your family members.

Be ready to talk about what you were doing and what happened before, during, and after the episode. It would be great if someone who saw it could go to with you and describe it to the doctor, too.

When your doctor can figure out why your seizures are happening -- you have an infection or low blood sugar, for example -- and you treat that other condition, you can often prevent more seizures.


An electroencephalogram (EEG) records your brain's electrical activity. The results may show misfiring in your brain and help predict the chance of future seizures.

Brain imaging tests such as an MRI or CT scan can help narrow down a possible cause you could treat.

Your doctor may want to do a spinal tap if they suspect an infection, such as meningitis, is behind your seizure.


Drugs called anticonvulsants can stop or lessen seizures for people with epilepsy. If you can't treat the cause of your seizures, or you don't know what it is, your doctor may also recommend an anti-seizure medicine.

The specific medication your doctor chooses is based on the type of seizures you have and their pattern. Often, a single drug will work, but sometimes you need to take a combination.

Your doctor may test your blood to check that you have the right amount of the drug in it, so that the medication is reaching your brain. Blood tests can also make sure drugs aren't harming your kidneys or liver.

Some people may be able to stop taking medication once their seizures have been under control for a number of years.

Nerve Stimulation and Surgery

If your seizures can't be controlled with medication, your doctor may suggest surgery.

A device that goes under the skin in your neck can electronically "turn on" your vagus nerve, which controls activity between the brain and major organs.

A responsive neurostimulator (RNS) is a small device put under your scalp. It's connected to one or two wires that are placed where your doctor thinks your seizures start within or on the surface of your brain. When the device picks up unusual electrical activity in the area, it sends a little zap to reset your brain before seizure symptoms begin.

The most successful operations remove the area of the brain that's causing the seizures. Other surgeries disconnect pathways between parts of the brain to prevent a seizure from spreading.


Stress can trigger seizures for some people. Relaxation techniques, including biofeedback and yoga, may help lessen the chance of a seizure, especially when you're also taking medication.


Some people with seizures have been helped by high-fat, low-carb diets, such as the ketogenic diet and a modified Atkins diet. These are strict and challenging plans that you should follow only if your doctor approves it, and while working with a dietitian.

Show Sources


American Academy of Neurology.

Bazil, C. Living Well with Epilepsy and Other Seizure Disorders: An Expert explains What You Really Need to Know, Collins, 2002.

Strafstrom, C. Epilepsy Curriculum, November 2004.

Nadkarni, S. Neurology, June 2005.

Bialer M. Epilepsy Research, September/October 2004.

Current Treatment Options in Neurology: "The Ketogenic Diet: Uses in Epilepsy and Other Neurologic Illnesses."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Adult Epilepsy Diet Center."

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