You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to a specialist, such as a doctor trained in brain and nervous system conditions (neurologist) or a neurologist trained in epilepsy (epileptologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot to talk about, it's a good idea to be well-prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Keep a detailed seizure calendar. Each time a seizure occurs, write down the time, the type of seizure you experienced and how long it lasted. Also make note of any circumstances, such as missed medications, sleep deprivation, increased stress, menstruation or other events that might trigger seizure activity.
Seek input from people who may observe your seizures, including family, friends and co-workers, so that you can record information you may not know.
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
Take a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
Also, because you may not be aware of everything that happens when you're having a seizure, your doctor may want to ask questions of someone who has witnessed them.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For epilepsy, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my seizures?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Is my epilepsy likely temporary or chronic?
- What is the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- How can I ensure that I don't hurt myself if I have another seizure?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions:
- When did you first begin experiencing seizures?
- Do your seizures seem to be triggered by certain events or conditions?
- Do you have similar sensations just before the onset of a seizure?
- Have your seizures been frequent or occasional?
- What symptoms do you have when you experience a seizure?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your seizures?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your seizures?
What you can do in the meantime
Certain conditions and activities can trigger seizures, so it may be helpful to:
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- Avoid nicotine usage
- Get enough sleep
- Reduce stress
Also, it's important to start keeping a log of your seizures before you visit your doctor.