Doctors specialise in different areas. For instance, you would see an orthopedic specialist if you broke your leg. So what about seizures? Can all doctors diagnose and treat seizures? While all doctors have a foundational level of training with seizures, there are certain types of doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and management of seizures. If you or a loved one has experienced their first seizure and is looking to find the right doctor to diagnose and manage seizures, then you are in the right place.
Where do seizures come from?
Before you can decide on the right type of doctor to treat your seizures, it is helpful to understand where in the body seizures stem from. Seizures are a neurological condition that originate in the brain. Read more here.
[Image description: Bird’s-eye view of doctor walking, while looking at brain scans on a tablet.]
A general practitioner (GP) is a licensed medical doctor who does not specialise in one specific area of medicine. Instead, GPs provide general, routine health care.
GPs refer people with more complex medical conditions to specialists for further comprehensive treatment. In fact, most specialists require a referral from a general practitioner before making an appointment.
See a General Practitioner first
Before seeing a specialist, you should start with seeing a General Practitioner (GP). A GP will conduct a thorough physical examination to rule out any other medical issues that might be at play. If the possibility of a seizure is confirmed, further testing will be ordered.
Your GP will order appropriate tests based on their examination which may include:
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – This is a detailed way of looking for abnormalities in the brain such as lesions or tumours. A combination of powerful magnets and radio waves are used to map a complex representation of your brain.
Electroencephalogram (EEG) – Using electrodes attached to the surface of your scalp, your doctor can measure the electrical activity in your brain. This helps to look for abnormal patterns and possibly to determine if and when another seizure might occur. It can also help them rule out other possibilities.
Types of epilepsy doctors
Neurologists are doctors who specialise in treating disorders of the nervous system, which includes the brain. Typically your general practitioner will refer you to a neurologist for further evaluation.
Neurologists are specialised doctors, however, you may need to see an epileptologist depending on your condition. A neurologist can look after you if you are diagnosed with seizures or a manageable case of epilepsy.
Epileptologists are neurologists who have taken specialised training in treating epilepsy. Your neurologist may refer you to an epileptologist if you experience severe epilepsy, are suffering complications, or several medications have been unsuccessful in managing your epilepsy.
Your epilepsy specialist will dig deeper into the root cause of your condition and may use video monitoring to confirm previous diagnoses or correct a misdiagnosis. They may recommend alternative treatments, or even a diet change to reduce the number and severity of episodes. Epileptologists may also be necessary for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Your specialist will begin with the least invasive management techniques first and talk you through every step of the process to ensure you get the right level of treatment.
[Image description: Brain hologram with electrical signals above a physician’s cupped hands.]
Treatments for seizures
There are a variety of different treatment options for seizures that may be recommended by your doctor depending on whether your seizures are epileptic or non-epileptic.
Treatments for epileptic seizures
Medications – Many people with epilepsy can manage their seizures with anti-seizure medication or the combination of a couple of different medications.
Surgery – Your doctor may recommend exploring surgery options to best manage the seizures.
Treatment for non-epileptic seizures
Psychiatrist – If you are diagnosed with non-epileptic seizures, you may be referred to a psychiatrist to help uncover the root cause of the seizures.
Vagus nerve stimulation – Sends electrical pulses to the brain via the neck to help reduce the number of seizures.
The Ketogenic diet – This high-fat low carb diet has been found to reduce the number of seizures in some individuals, especially children.
Deep Brain Stimulation – Sends impulses to the brain and may reduce the number of seizures.
Responsive neurostimulation – This technique may detect seizures before they happen.
Subthreshold stimulation – May help reduce the severity of seizures and improve a person’s quality of life.
Minimally invasive surgeries – A group of surgical techniques that may reduce the risks of traditional epilepsy surgery.
Where should you start?
There is no doubt that this is a stressful time, and it can be hard to know where to start when seeking answers. Finding the best doctors for your needs can seem daunting. The best place to start is by scheduling an appointment with your general practitioner, who can help determine if you are experiencing seizures or if another medical condition is to blame.
If you are referred to a neurologist, that doesn’t mean you have to wait for testing and diagnostics. Seer Medical offers state-of-the-art at-home video-EEG-ECG monitoring with reports that are sent to your doctors. There may be a waiting list to see your neurologist, but you can move forward with testing. Proper diagnosis and management begin with seeing the right doctor and specialist for your needs.