Detailed Medical History

A detailed and accurate history of a patient’s episodes is the most helpful tool for making the diagnosis of epilepsy. It is essential that the doctor be given all information about the seizure, because most doctors never witness a patient’s actual attack. The doctor will want to know:

  • How did the episode begin and what happened?
  • Was there a lack of sleep or unusual stress preceding the episode?
  • Was there any recent illness?
  • Had the person taken any medications or drugs, including over-the-counter drugs, alcohol, or illegal drugs?
  • What was the person doing immediately before the attack: lying, sitting, standing, getting up from a lying position, exercising?
  • Was consciousness lost or impaired?
  • Were there jerking movements, automatic chewing or hand movements, eye deviation or blinking, head turning to one side, loss of bladder control, or a tongue bite?
  • Afterward, did the person go to sleep? Or appear confused?
  • How long did the episode last? (It is best to time an episode with a watch, as 1 minute may seem like 5 minutes to a worried observer.)

If a given patient has frequent events, the patient’s family should make a video recording of an episode for the doctor to view. All of this information will help the doctor to determine if the episode is a seizure, and if so, what type.