Diagnosis

The diagnosis and classification of seizures is often difficult in the elderly. Many older individuals live alone or with partners whose memory and observational skills are limited, so the descriptions of seizures and seizure patterns provided by the patient and witnesses may be less reliable than those provided by younger patients. Many elderly individuals also are prone to other disorders that may resemble seizures. For example, it can be very difficult to determine if an episode of loss of consciousness is due to low blood pressure, a simple faint, a disturbance of the heart rhythm, or a seizure. In most cases, the cause is fainting. Similarly, an episode with brief speech difficulty, confusion, or change in sensory function (for example, numbness or disturbance of vision) could result from a transient ischemic attack (TIA)—a sign of an upcoming stroke—though these symptoms can also be seen in someone having a seizure.