Rethinking Seizure Care Blog

The Misdiagnosis of Epilepsy: 10 Conditions That Mimic Epilepsy

Posted by RSC Diagnostics on Mar 24, 2017

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Having a seizure, or what appears to be a seizure, is always a frightening experience. Many people believe that if you have a seizure, it must mean that you have epilepsy, but that is not always the case. There are a several different conditions that look very much like epilepsy, but aren’t. In those cases, it is possible for there to be a misdiagnosis of epilepsy.

Common Conditions Misdiagnosed as Epilepsy

The following are some of the most common issues that could result in a misdiagnosis of epilepsy. It is important to understand what these are and why they might appear to be epilepsy. Unfortunately, 30% of all patients diagnosed with epilepsy don’t have it. They have something else. Here are a few conditions confused with epilepsy.

  1. Diabetic Seizures - As the number of people who are diagnosed with diabetes increases, so does the number of seizures caused by diabetes. Read more here:  Seizure Precautions: The Relationship Between Diabetes and Seizures and Diabetic Seizures – What Are They? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments.
  2. First Seizures – A first seizure could occur because of drugs or anesthesia, but it could occur on its own without any known trigger. Most of the time, it will not occur again and they do not have epilepsy. However, it is always a good idea to be checked out by a professional.
  3. Febrile Seizures – These types of seizures can occur when a child has a high fever. In most cases, these will not develop into epilepsy. However, if there is a family history of epilepsy, or there was damage to the nervous system prior to the seizure, the risk factor is higher.
  4. Nonepileptic Seizure Disorder – These events look like seizures, but they are not. Some of the common types of nonepileptic seizure disorders include abnormal heart rhythms, Tourette Syndrome, or narcolepsy, a sleep disorder.
  5. Meningitis – This condition can cause swelling in the spinal cord, as well as membranes in the brain. Some of the symptoms can mimic those of epilepsy.
  6. Migraine – These types of severe headaches can have a range of symptoms, such as dizziness, seeing auras, vomiting, and nausea. These are similar to some symptoms experienced by people who have epilepsy.
  7. EclampsiaPregnant women can suffer from eclampsia, and it has the potential to be very dangerous. It can cause a rise in the blood pressure to occur suddenly, and it can also include seizures. Women who suffer from eclampsia and who have a seizure should go directly to the hospital. After treatment and delivery of the baby, most women will no longer have seizures and they will not develop epilepsy.
  8. Encephalitis – This is an inflammation of the brain, often due to a viral infection. Symptoms include a sore or stiff neck, confusion, vomiting, headache, and fever. Again, these are often signs of epilepsy, as well.
  9. Cardiac Disorders – When someone undergoes an EEG, it is not always easy to determine the difference between a cardiac disorder and a seizure. It is important for doctors to learn more about the patient and to make sure they have made the correct diagnosis.
  10. PTSD and TBIs– Those who have experienced traumatic events may develop seizures that are psychological in nature or the result of a brain injury. The seizures are not a result of the brain misfiring electrical signals. To learn more about the rise in seizures among veterans with PTSD read our blog, Veterans with Epilepsy Caused by PTSD and TBI.

The misdiagnosis of epilepsy is common because not all seizures are epileptic. Since so many other things can mimic epilepsy. Neurologists or epileptologists, who have gone through highly specialized training as helpful in getting a proper diagnosis. If you are having seizures, make the time to visit a medical professional and let them know what has been happening.


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Topics: Diagnosing Epilepsy