Epilepsy Talk

A simple blood test to reveal seizures? | March 18, 2021

A recent study by Doctors at Stanford University, California reveal that a simple blood test can determine whether or not someone has had an epileptic seizure.

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 this hormone prolactin, causing the 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 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. If he/she doesn’t know about it yet, a little education may be your first job! (See references below.)

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  1. Fascinating and so encouraging ! Thank you for the continued excellent work that you do. I highly value being able to read your posts !

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Nancy — March 18, 2021 @ 9:36 AM

  2. This sounds wonderful. I’m sure this will lead to more helpful methods. For now however, I can’t see myself getting my body to where it needs to be, in order to have blood drawn within 10-20 minutes. Are there any ideas yet as how this could actually be worked out?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Nancy — March 18, 2021 @ 9:46 AM

  3. I think you would have to go straight to a lab, which as you suspected can sometimes be impossible.

    However, if you’re taken to the ER, the test can be quickly administered.

    But as a matter of course, I have blood work done every six months to see if my meds are at their proper levels.

    On one test, they discovered my Lamictal was only working at half strength! So the problem was remedied pronto.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 18, 2021 @ 9:57 AM

    • Thanks Phylis, I just had bloodwork done yesterday and I was feeling terrible (off kilter) I’ll contact them this morning to see if they can still test.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Nancy — March 18, 2021 @ 10:30 AM

      • Have you had a thorough blood test? Did you get the results back? I would suggest calling your doctor first.


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 18, 2021 @ 10:33 AM

  4. I have always told my neurologists I have had & asked them WHY they can not give me the right drug that will work for my brain chemistry, & relate that to my blood type, that the drug or drugs will work together with the blood type & my brain chemistry, that will work like a clock, & if more or less drugs are needed, then adjust the MGS then. I believe in some states that happens for people but not in WV, or other states where I live, or they just don’t care to do it as it may mean LESS MONEY for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by James D — March 18, 2021 @ 11:27 AM

    • A lot of Drs favor certain meds and it may be due to the reps they have, that’s true. Recently, I was able to gently convince my Dr to put me back on a medicine I was taken off a few years ago. The problem with that was it was the one thing that worked! I tried what they wanted and they were newer but they didn’t help. So out of desperation I asked if I could please have the other one back. Years later it’s helping me again. It’s a migraine med that doesn’t cost $300. But rather $6. and works for me along with my AEDs….go figure😂
      You have to ask! You go James!!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Janet R. — March 18, 2021 @ 6:59 PM

  5. I didn’t know that they could use blood TYPE to prescribe AEDs.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 18, 2021 @ 1:07 PM

  6. Reblogged this on Disablities & Mental Health Issues.


    Comment by Kenneth — March 18, 2021 @ 1:50 PM

  7. ‘…a little education may be your first job.’ I like that. I don’t know how many times I’ve yelled at television programs, movies, that misrepresent epilepsy.

    So I’ll read more on the diagnostic value of the blood tests and remind my neurologist that it’s ‘thanks to Phylis’ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by philamisan — March 18, 2021 @ 3:12 PM

  8. Wow! And I have to say it feels like they have finally come a long way🙏🏻😁 So happy about that! Perhaps now we won’t be such a mystery to our medical teams and trying to find the correct dosage of medicine to prescribe will be less torturous on everybody. We can all only hope and pray🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Janet R. — March 18, 2021 @ 6:48 PM

  9. Now all we need to wish for is that they can choose the right KIND of medicine to treat our very different seizures with.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 18, 2021 @ 8:04 PM

  10. Phylis, Do you have any information on the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine and Seizures or reaction to Carbatrol Medications? Also, How do acquire the blood test which must be used within 10 to 20 minutes after a seizure?

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Doreen Mack — March 19, 2021 @ 7:54 PM

  11. Doreen, I don’t know much about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine except that it is administered in just one dose. I don’t believe it has negative effects on any epilepsy drugs.

    As for the 20 minute blood test, the ER or EMT would be the most likely place.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 20, 2021 @ 8:30 AM

    • The Blood test is a great idea, but nearly impossible if it is required 20 minutes after a seizure, unless you are at the ER or EMT is right there. Maybe they will develop a test we can use on ourselves, like the Diabetes tests. Perhaps we can be instrumental in getting that accomplished.
      Thanks for being persistent on your cause. It surely answers questions that the Doctors do not, and I am tired of not getting answers. There resolve is always to increase meds. I will not do this for it was the cause of my secondary (Absence) Seizures. It was due to my research that I brought it to my Doctor’s attention and I have weaned myself to the minimum dosage of Carbatrol for it has kept the Grand-Mal Seizures at bay.
      However, I had a Absence Seizure the other day while driving. Fortunately, my husband was with me, and I was greeted at home by a women who followed me and called the ambulance fire truck. They talked to me and said I was fine and left. My seizures are few and far between, but It was a real set-back because it is so debilitating, humiliating and puts life on hold. Having a very successful business for 40 years a car is necessary.
      I hate to think of myself as handicapped (or disabled) as in one discussion you had with folks. I have been Blessed to have accomplished many things in my life with this affliction, that I have had for 12 years due to a concussion from a fall. I have refused to think of it as a disability or I would feel helpless. I have kept it a secret from most people (excluding family and close friends) because the word seizure conjures up fearful thoughts.
      I have learned that there are triggers and I had made a FB post the night before this last seizure to my classmates to see if they remembered my friend (Bethany) who died at 16. She had been on my mind and the feedback was astonishing. They all remembered her as very cute and sweet. She had Grand-mal seizures. The ambulance would show up at school and it was totally humiliating for her. Kids can be cruel, and some were merciless.
      She had called me one-night numerous times to help her with her homework and she lived way out of town and I could not go to her house. I had told her I would help her over the phone and tried my best to do so. The next morning, she got her dad’s pistol and killed herself. For over 50years I believed I was responsible for her death.
      There was never a funeral service because her parents believed the school kids were responsible for her death and it was against there religion, therefore, there was no closure for me, and no-one discussed it. But I learned from the FB discussion that I was not the last person to of talked to her. She had gotten into a fight with her neighbor (another classmate) and she has had to live with this awful guilt. It was a loss for everyone who knew Bethany and there was no closure for any of us because it was never discussed. They have thanked me for bringing it up for it has also caused them to look at and deal with that loss.
      Her death had rattled me to my core, and I had made it my life’s mission to be there for my friends. I could not remember what she looked like, so to top it off I looked her up in my Yearbook and we looked just alike, this was eerie. I am working on letting go of the guilt so I can let her rest in peace. I wish I could do the same with my seizures. Thanks for listening❤🙏

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Doreen — March 20, 2021 @ 2:56 PM

      • How devastating! I used to call epilepsy “my dirty little secret” because I couldn’t even have a seizure in peace.

        My parents treated me like a pariah (a surgeon and a psychologist among them) and were in complete denial. I had no friends. Not even a tragic Bethany.

        That you should feel responsible for her death is only fitting for the adolescent feel of fear, confusion and innocence. And if there was no one to convince you otherwise, it would indeed be a very heavy burden to carry.

        Even more difficult than your own burdens!

        But you did it. You coped with your own condition and finally found closure for her. A state of grace few people could accomplish.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 20, 2021 @ 3:55 PM

  12. Hi Phyllis
    very nice article. I go for tests many times, but the neurologist never mentioned to me about the research of this hormone. Even to check the effect of a drug. I’m going to do the prolactin test right away tomorrow.
    Thanks to another article of yours, about the effects of the drugs, I again independently did research, which confirmed that Finlepsin reduces the action of valproic acid, which was 2.5 times below the norm. Without consulting the neurologist, only with my pharmacist and homeopath, I gradually stopped Finlepsin for about a month and did new tests which showed me 1. An increase in valproic acid to a lower limit; 2. Attacks decreased to once a month. They bathe twice a week. Now in three months I will repeat the tests to see the level of Lamictal and Valproic acid.

    I am very very happy !!!!!!!
    And for the article described above, I will immediately do a prolactin test tomorrow. How many times should a test be done to obtain values that can be relied on for the seizure activity or the function of a drug?

    Be very very happy!!!!

    Could you point me to the drug interaction link?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Goro Dimitrov — April 4, 2023 @ 8:28 AM

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    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.

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