Epilepsy Talk

Blood Tests May Help Diagnose Epilepsy | February 23, 2014

A new study shows that a simple blood test can determine whether or not someone has had an epileptic seizure.

Doctors at Stanford University, California, reveal that the level of the hormone prolactin may be indicative of the type of seizure and can be measured by this blood test.

The blood test which must be used within 10 to 20 minutes after a seizure, can identify generalized tonic-clonic seizures and complex partial seizures in both adults and older children, because the level of prolactin in the blood goes up.

Researchers say epileptic seizures are thought to affect the hypothalamus and may alter the release of prolactin, causing levels of the hormone to rise.

The results also showed that the test could accurately identify seizures from nonseizure type episodes.

Because levels of prolactin in the blood increase after seizures, but not during nonseizure activity.

In the study, which appears in the journal Neurology, researchers evaluated eight studies on the prolactin blood test.

But they say the test cannot distinguish epileptic seizures from those caused by a fainting episodes, because prolactin levels also rise after these types of seizures.

And there was also not enough evidence to determine whether the prolactin test is useful in evaluating cases of status epilepticus, repetitive seizures, or neonatal seizures.

But the guidelines state that the test is useful as an adjunct test, especially in cases where video EEG monitoring is not readily available.

In addition, your doctor may take a blood sample to check for signs of infections, genetic conditions or other conditions which may be associated with seizures.

Blood tests will also be used to monitor anti-seizure medication levels in your blood, to make sure you’re at the appropriate “therapeutic level” for the most effective results, to eliminate “toxic” levels, and check for possible side-effects.

These tests may also be ordered to determine the general physical well-being of your body.

In adults, appropriate blood tests (glucose, electrolytes, calcium, renal function, liver function, and urine biochemistry) to identify potential causes and/or to identify additional significant disorders should also be addressed.

They can also be used to detect if you have an infection or been exposed to any poisons that may have caused your seizures.

All of this from a single blood test!

Be sure to ask your neurologist about this very simple diagnostic tool and if he/she doesn’t know about it yet, a little education my be your first job! (See references below.)

To subscribe to Epilepsy Talk and receive notifications of new posts by email, simply go to the bottom of the right column and click on where it says “Follow”











  1. it is difficult to have a blood test this fast if you’re not at the dr’s when the seizure happens.


    Comment by Alan Bishop — February 23, 2014 @ 1:20 PM

    • True. That’s the glitch.

      Can you have your doc write out a blood test script so you have it when you need it?

      Do you have auras?

      One more question (remote that it may be). Can you ask your doc if there’s a way that you can take/sample your own blood?


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 23, 2014 @ 1:34 PM

      • sometimes I have aura’s, yes. they aren’t always followed up. by seizures, but I usually don’t realize I’ve had one. they’re partial, and usually last 20-30 seconds.
        next time I talk to her, i’ll ask about the script.


        Comment by Alan Bishop — February 24, 2014 @ 2:47 PM

  2. I’m sure this is just the first step of many advances. This could be a help for newly diagnosed people to confirm or not confirm what a Drs thinks. But for us with epilespy…I KNEW that had a seizure. because of my aura,waking up on the floor, ambulance or having something bleeding. I didnt need a blood test to tell me I had a seizure. Know what I mean?


    Comment by charlie — February 23, 2014 @ 8:47 PM

  3. No one had to guess with you Charlie, that’s for sure. Even if you were a “bad” boy! 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 23, 2014 @ 10:08 PM

  4. The use of Prolactin levels has been known by Neurologists for over 30yrs. It is unreliable.Remember there are dozens of causes and types of epilepsy.

    One swallow doesn’t make the spring.I don’t know any neurologists using Prolactin levels in the last 10yrs.

    A/Prof Geoffrey Boyce MD FACP FAAN


    Comment by Geoffrey M Boyce — February 24, 2014 @ 2:20 AM

    • As far as prolactin levels, although they’ve been around for over 30 years, they have not been used in this context.

      And yes, one test doesn’t predict everything or every type of epilepsy.

      It is a diagnostic tool, not a predicter. And as you’ll notice, there are a lot of “cans”, “may”, “tests”, in the research.

      This protocall is a diagnostic tool. No more. No less.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 24, 2014 @ 7:18 AM

  5. ALAN,

    Auras are also Simple Partial Seizures.

    The aura IS the seizure.

    An aura is actually a small seizure itself – one that has not spread into an observable seizure that impairs consciousness and your ability to respond.

    You don’t lose consciousness.

    In other words, something is going on in your brain. But it isn’t spreading.

    Sometimes this abnormal electrical activity tapers off.

    At other times, it spreads and leads to severe seizures.



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 24, 2014 @ 3:55 PM

    • yes, this is what i understand from researching epilepsy. but it doesn’t become a full blown seizure, I sometimes forget that it is. I’ve had a head injury ya know. but my doctors don’t seem as concerned about them. Should I be?


      Comment by Alan Bishop — February 24, 2014 @ 4:52 PM

  6. I don’t really think so. Lots of people have auras without seizures (which is a good thing).

    But if you really want to freak out, read this:

    A Menu of Epilepsy Auras



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 24, 2014 @ 8:19 PM

    • this doesn’t really freak me out. I freaked when my seizures started, but now nothing about them surprises me.


      Comment by Alan Bishop — February 25, 2014 @ 7:17 PM

  7. THAT I can understand!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 25, 2014 @ 10:38 PM

  8. I had one seizure which started me taking serious meds. after some minor seizures, I started taking small doses of tegretol. but one night, I was having a seizure that went on for over an hour. they gave me some keppra in the hospital and sent me to another neurologist because I was in a different hmo. Since then, it’s been hell. that’s why nothing surprises me anymore.


    Comment by Alan Bishop — February 25, 2014 @ 11:11 PM

  9. Well Alan, can’t you get another referral that’s in your plan? Or in their system? They must have more than one.

    Keppra is HELL!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 25, 2014 @ 11:29 PM

    • why is keppra so bad? I’ve been on 10 plus years, it was bumpy at first, but not so bad now.


      Comment by Alan Bishop — February 26, 2014 @ 10:52 AM

  10. Well, you know, one person’s hell, is another person’s heaven.

    Take a look at this (long) link:

    Keppra – What People Are Saying…



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 27, 2014 @ 11:20 AM

    • I know that we all have different reactions to medicines. I’ve even read about some people who recommend brand name keppra but don’t recommend generic. some of it might be psychological, I think! but overall, it works pretty good for me. combined with lamictal,, anyway. but it’s still not perfect and I’d like to drive again. so I’m still on the hunt. I don’t know if anyone else understands my frustration.


      Comment by Alan Bishop — February 27, 2014 @ 12:13 PM

  11. Lamical is what works for me. Coupled with Klonopin.

    And I understand your frustration with not being able to drive.

    I just had my license revoked because of a seizure. (I ran my car into the back garage wall!)

    And even though it’s only for six months, asking people to take you just to the grocery store, pharmacy, bank — the basics — not including anything else (like fun, etc.) is pure humiliation to me.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 27, 2014 @ 3:24 PM

    • I haven’t had mine legally revoked, but it’s just that I know the 6 month thing. I’d like to think I can go at least to work, the grocery store, or SOMEWHERE! But the bummer is the danger. I’ve done it before, but I’m doing it again now. it’s a pain you know where.


      Comment by Alan Bishop — February 28, 2014 @ 11:59 AM

      • My neuro automaticaly reporteded me to Motor Vehicles, after my little garage crash. (It’s the law here in PA.)

        So, I got a nasty gram from Motor Vehicles, but it only said to return my neuro papers by XYZ date.

        I continued not driving under neuro orders.

        Then, 3 months later, I got another nasty gram from Motor Vehicles, telling me to send in the neuro papers AND surrender my licence within THREE days, or else there would be a SHERIFF at my door!

        Apparently, the three months “served” counts towards the return of my license.

        But Harrisburg in so slow and inefficent, who knows when I’ll get it back.


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 28, 2014 @ 12:28 PM

  12. and I und3erstand that YOU would know what I mean about the driving, but non epileptics dont


    Comment by Alan Bishop — February 28, 2014 @ 12:03 PM

  13. so thyey don’t count


    Comment by Alan Bishop — February 28, 2014 @ 12:05 PM

  14. Well, my three months “served” counts…to Motor Vehicles and ME!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 28, 2014 @ 12:31 PM

    • the concern I hove at this time is that even after six months it’s still somethi8ng of a crap-shoot for me. I’m about tired of doing this. wish I was wealthy enough to have a permanent driver.


      Comment by Alan Bishop — February 28, 2014 @ 9:26 PM

  15. Well, if you don’t have any one from Motor Vehicles on your back, I think it’s matter of discretion.

    And YES, I’d like to have a driver, too!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 1, 2014 @ 12:14 PM

  16. I’d think the dr-patient confidentiality would protec.t ya from automatic reporting of seizures, and they’d need a court order to see the doctor’s records. guess that’s what I get for thinkin.
    no’ the DMV’s not involved yet, and I wanna keep it that way. But now I don’t know if I really WANT to drive. I just don’t want to be a burden to my family. I also want to do some regular necessary chores. so it’s a quandary. but I think something will work out. at least I hope so.


    Comment by Alan Bishop — March 1, 2014 @ 1:03 PM

  17. The neuro HAD to report it, accoding to law and PA.

    It’s the law for any reported “seisure activity.”

    On the other hand, my friend Sally didn’t dive voluntarly in S.C., because of her seizre activity.

    So, I guess it’s your call.


    Comment by Phylis F Johnson — March 1, 2014 @ 8:37 PM

  18. I think it’s your call.

    My neuro reported my seizure because it’s state law in PA.

    Yet a friend of mine in South Carolina voluntarily didn’t drive for 6 months because of her seizures.

    Since you haven’t reported your seizure activity, I think you’re not on the Motor Vehicles books.

    Yet, I understand why you’re wary.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 1, 2014 @ 8:44 PM

    • I’d rather fly under the radar as best I can. i dont there’s a law requiring neuro’s to do that in MO


      Comment by Alan Bishop — March 2, 2014 @ 11:25 AM

  19. Your luck. Not mine. 😉


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 2, 2014 @ 12:25 PM

  20. so I just better not push my luck., I’m not really sure there’s not a law. I don’t ALWAYS tell my neuro every time something happens. so please don’t tell on me.


    Comment by Alan Bishop — March 2, 2014 @ 1:58 PM

  21. I promise. Scout’s honor. 😉


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 2, 2014 @ 3:24 PM

  22. It’s stunning WHAT these blood tests can tell a doctor if you have a seizure condition / epilepsy. Now to think that ANY blood work tests that CAN BE before a seizure is lurking to happen, they will not, as it’s not that they CAN NOT, look for toxic chemical level spikes in the BBB / Blood Brain Barrier of GLUTAMATE, DOPAMINE GABA, SEROTONIN, GLUCOSE & other brain activity of all neurotransmitters, where these chemicals DO affect how they ALL work, when one is higher or lower than normal. The unbalances of the brain -chemistry from those brain chemicals & MORE that we feed our brain with drugs, foods & drinks, WILL put most of our brains under that STRESS that a seizure or something is bound to happen. So my PROLACTIN may be higher after a seizure, so what. I want to know,, ”which I have an idea” what chemical is lower or higher than normal,, so I can prevent them more better, from feeding my brain the good things it needs, rather than taking any of the AED’s that do nothing to fox that, or getting a VNS, WATCH or whatever that will not correct brain chemical balances either. ISRAEL back in 2007 did some BBB work & tests that lowered glutamate in the blood for their troops coming home from PTSD, and they HELPED all who were suffering from that PTSD. What they were to have done was to inject a special enzyme in the blood to LOWER GLUTAMATE LEVELS in their BBB so the brain naturally calmed itself down to where that troop / soldier with PTSD did not suffer from it no more than they had before getting that treatment. KATHLEEN KENNEDY did that report back from 2007. Why can’t neurologists at these LEVEL 4 epilepsy clinics everywhere like JHU, MAYO CLINIC, NIH & others do that. same thing what the doctors over in ISRAEL did in 2007 ? Nope.. To them,, we are to be sheep to the slaughter house, all in the names of PROFIT & GREED. aka BIG PHARMA, GADGETS, corporations & FDA scams.


    Comment by C D — March 5, 2019 @ 12:05 PM

    • Brilliant.

      Yes, they can measure blood levels, but not chemical toxins like those you mentioned.

      A “mere” oversight?

      Or just the inability to recognize them.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 5, 2019 @ 12:44 PM

  23. Kelly Kennedy .. Army Times Feb 2007 Brain Glucose. Look up that article very slowly and you can not say that brain chemical balances can not be tested. Again ISRAEL was where this was happening.


    Comment by C D — March 5, 2019 @ 1:48 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

    View Full Profile →

    Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive free notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,679 other followers

    Follow Epilepsy Talk on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: