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How is Epilepsy Developed and Diagnosed?

Epilepsy is a form of a neurological disorder characterized by seizures. Although the circumstances surrounding epilepsy are relatively clear within the scientific and clinical community, the causes of epilepsy remain debatable. In some instances epilepsy develops as a genetic disorder while in others it comes as a consequence of head trauma or injury. Sometimes infections are responsible for the advancement of epilepsy. The signs and symptoms are very easily recognizable as they involve recurring idiopathic seizures. A seizure is an occurrence in the brain during which the neurons are firing signals much faster than they should. Nonetheless, diagnosing epilepsy is in some instances not as straightforward as it may seem. New advances in image scanning are employed in placing diagnoses and recommending treatment. Some of the effects seizures have on the person include fainting, involuntary muscle movement, hallucinations and various types of mood disorders. Aside from using blood tests and EEG scanning, the most often employed device for diagnosing epilepsy is an MRI. MRIs take images of the body’s organs, muscles, and tissue without relying on X-Rays but utilize a large magnet and radio waves to generate images. More often than not the area of the brain where the seizures take place remains unidentified but the individual is given medications anyway to try and prevent seizures and reducing the consequences they leave behind.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Epilepsy

MRI is an advanced type of scanning method used to identify numerous medical problems. Among other conditions, MRI is often employed in diagnosing epilepsy or even discovering its cause, such as a swelling of the brain due to head trauma, for instance. MRI scans the brain and transmits the images onto a computer where a radiographer interprets the results. MRI reveals brain tissue and displays it in different colors so in some instances the medical professional administering the test may need to inject the patient with harmless dye in order for some parts of the brain to show more clearly. The dye poses no threat and leaves no adverse effects, but it does make the person feel warmer than usual. There are several instances in which the MRI is the diagnostic tool of choice when it comes to epilepsy. For instance, individuals who keep experiencing seizures despite of having been on medications for a while will likely be sent to get an MRI scan. If the primary health care provider suspects brain injury might be the cause of epilepsy he or she will ask for an MRI as well. Finally, persons who are younger than 2 years of age, or who have never had signs or symptoms of epilepsy up until adulthood are likely to undergo MRI scanning. In addition, there are several different types of epileptic seizures believed to be originating from different root causes. Only those kinds which are thought to be linked to abnormalities in the brain are diagnosed using MRI.

Preparing for MRI

An MRI scan usually takes about an hour and produces plenty of noise. The person being tested is asked to lie on a table which is inserted into a tube that scans the head. There are individuals who are very uncomfortable with being in a confined space for such a long time, which can last more than an hour, so they may be offered a medication to relax during the procedure. A radiologist is present for the duration of the scanning and once the results are generated and interpreted he or she sends them to the doctor who referred the patient, usually a neurologist. In case an individual has any kind of metal clips inserted in the brain the MRI will not be performed. Other than artificial implants in the brain, artificial joints, pace makers and heart valve replacements, and any kind of surgical clips should under no circumstances be exposed to MRI scanning. Most such persons wear identity jewellery so that even in emergency situations medical personnel are informed and know not to put the person through certain types of image scanning. Further, individuals with severe lung disease, those who are pregnant, have vision or auditory implants, and are obese should not undergo MRI scanning. Right before the exam any personal items which contain metal or magnetic strips need to be left behind as they can obstruct the images. Clothing is usually removed and the individual asked to wear a hospital gown. An MRI produces no sensations and is a pain free procedure. The technicians are there to assist in any way possible so if the patient has any questions or concerns he or she should feel free to raise them. Lastly, it is recommended that the patient goes for an MRI within one month of the doctor’s request, but this is not always possible due to the insufficient number of scanners and specialist staff.

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