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Posted on 4th February 2019

Epilepsy Misdiagnosis

Epilepsy is a fairly common condition in the UK, which is surprising to many people when they first realise how prevalent it is. Approximately 1 in 100 people are affected by the condition, and more than 87 people are diagnosed with a variant of epilepsy every day. However, just how many of these are properly diagnosed? With misdiagnosis rates as high as 23%, it’s important to ensure that you’ve been diagnosed properly, and we’re here to help if that isn’t the case.

But first, just why are epilepsy misdiagnosis rates so high? We took a deep dive into the condition to find some answers.

What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects the brain. It often results in irregular, uncontrolled seizures, which can be life-threatening. During normal day-to-day living, the cells in the brain are constantly sending electronic signals. A seizure happens when there is a sudden burst of electrical activity, which causes a surge in the brain. Seizures can happen at any time and there is seemingly no cause for these disruptions, as scientists and medical professionals are unclear about why it happens in the first place.

Epilepsy can occur at any point in someone’s lifetime, and to complicate things further, there are many different types of seizure. The brain is an incredibly complicated organ, and each seizure can affect a different area of the brain. This results in a different reaction. Certain people remain conscious during a seizure, while others lose awareness completely until the seizure is over. The duration of each seizure is different as well, with some lasting more than 5 minutes, while others can last for only a few seconds.

The Types of Epilepsy

Due to the number of variations of the condition, epilepsy is split into 4 distinct variations.

Generalised Epilepsy

This type of seizure affects both sides of the brain, causing two basic types of seizure. Generalised Motor Seizures cause uncontrollable movements. These can sometimes be incredibly dramatic, as muscles tend to stiffen and jerk, while the affected person can lose consciousness. On the other hand, Generalised Non-Motor Seizures result in an absence of self. The affected person may repeat the same movement over and over or may stare into space.

Focal Epilepsy

As previously mentioned in this article, epilepsy often affects a specific area of the brain, which Focal Epilepsy covers. Affected people remain aware during Focal Aware Seizures, while Focal Impaired Awareness Seizures often affect memory. There are also Focal Motor Seizures and Non-Motor Seizures, which cause uncontrollable movement or a feeling of intense emotions respectively. This doesn’t cover everything though, as there are many different types within these definitions.

Generalised and Focal Seizures

This type is self-explanatory, as it covers people that are affected by both types of epilepsy. Affected persons may experience a mixture of both, or one type of seizure may be more prominent than the other.


As epilepsy is difficult to diagnose, an unknown diagnosis may be given. This occurs when epilepsy is definitely the cause, but the type of epilepsy isn’t readily obvious. So the question is, how is it diagnosed in the first place?

How is it Diagnosed?

Epilepsy is unique in the medical profession, as the diagnosis is usually given based on patient history. Epileptic seizures usually occur in unobservable situations, so eye-witness statements and patient recall is needed to accurately make a judgement. Symptoms can vary wildly as well, which makes diagnosis difficult.

An electroencephalogram test, or EEG, is another option, but its use to diagnose epilepsy is quite controversial. Erroneous diagnoses have been recorded due to standard developmental changes during the test, while a range of professions can use it, such as psychiatrists and neurophysiologists. As a result, the training usually differs depending on experience, and usually only involves observational learning. This results in massive variations in how data is recorded and ultimately, how the machine is used.

That’s not the only issue either, as according to a study by Birmingham and Leicester in 2006, more than 90,000 people in the UK are misdiagnosed with the condition. This may be resulting in unnecessary costs of as much as £138m a year. While there are guidelines for the diagnosis of epilepsy, the results can vary.

Have You Been Misdiagnosed?

As the misdiagnosis of epilepsy is incredibly common in the UK, you’ll need someone to turn to if it has happened to you. That’s where Negligence Claimline comes in. If you’ve suffered as a result of an epilepsy misdiagnosis, give our friendly team a call on 0330 355 9210. We’ll look at your case on an individual basis to find a solution that works for you