Epilepsy Talk

Blood Tests May Help Diagnose Epilepsy | September 5, 2021

A recent 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.)

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  1. Phylis – Great topic!
    I am one of those people with epilepsy who has tonic-clonic seizures on an unpredictable basis. You would think that I would know if I had one by now: 1) Unless I end up on the floor, or 2) I simply wake up “feeling kinda weird” and maybe a bit physically stressed, though not always.

    My epileptologist is aggressive in trying to find a pattern to these types of seizures and treat accordingly. If it were not for my wife verifying that I had had a seizure in my sleep, then I would not be 100% sure. That’s a lot of pressure for her, as if someone who is sleeping next to another someone who has tonic-clonic seizures isn’t pressure enough!

    My epileptologist has offered coming into the neurology wing and waiting to see if a seizure will come in my sleep, but he knows that is a “frustrating way” (my words) to see if something happens. So he offered one of the at-home tests where they put electrodes on my scalp, figuring that I am more likely to have a seizure on my home turf so to speak. Well, it did work. And soon. There is, however, still no pattern to deduce.

    This blood test seems to give us another arsenal at our disposal. If the blood test could be administered at the end of these tonic clonic seizures’ unpredictable basis, then maybe – just maybe – we can find a pattern and take some necessary adjustments.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by George Choyce — September 5, 2021 @ 1:27 PM

  2. So, you had an ambulatory EEG and they found random nocturnal seizures?

    The unpredictable nature of nocturnal seizes is an unfortunately well know pattern (or lack of pattern) and often they can only tell by the after-effects: mood, physical fatigue, etc.

    However, if your tonic-clonic seizures come randomly, at an unpredictable time, I agree, your goose is cooked.

    And finding a rhyme and/or reason would really big a huge help.

    Oh, how I wish some peace for you…

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 5, 2021 @ 2:06 PM

  3. Yep. Paradoxically, the only predictability is to a lack of a pattern. The phenomenon that is predictable is what gets all involved (me, too) frustrated, to put it mildly. I’ve virtually cut out sugar; cut back on coffee; completely given up alcohol (even) the Communion wine; increased exercise; eat more vegetables and fruit and fish and chicken (no red meat); etc …

    Well, the nocturnal seizures are also predictable because they only come – to be repetitive – at night. I would know if I found myself on the ground during the day if they had changed their pattern. In fact, the seizures did not show up once during the daytime on the Home EEG. As you write, “finding a rhyme and/or reason would really be a huge help.”

    No matter what, I will keep searching for that elusive peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by George Choyce — September 5, 2021 @ 2:46 PM

  4. Agree , also checks if medication is in toxic / low levels too

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Cathy Flowers — September 6, 2021 @ 10:16 AM

  5. Thanks for the very interesting information.
    Applying this simple diagnostic technique is certainly going to save a whole lot people from going through a very difficult time consuming a whole lot resources to find out the epileptic seizures they can’t trace neither pinpoint.
    The convenience of going through the blood test alone will certainly make the diagnostic & treatment process more reliable, cost effective & faster than the alternative mechanism.
    Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Gerrie — September 6, 2021 @ 3:01 PM

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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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