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An epileptologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating patients who are diagnosed with epilepsy. A professional performs imaging tests to analyze brain functioning and prescribes medications to help patients manage their symptoms. In addition, many doctors conduct independent research on epilepsy to better understand the condition and stay up-to-date on the latest drugs and treatment techniques. Epileptologists must fulfill extensive education and training requirements to earn their licenses and prepare to help patients with complex seizure disorders.
Epilepsy is a type of brain disorder that causes people to experience seizures. It is a complicated disorder than can arise from many causes and present itself in in many forms. Most neurologists are somewhat familiar with the condition and can provide basic diagnoses and treatments, but epileptologists are needed to offer expert patient analyses. When patients are referred to an epileptologist, the doctor reviews their medical histories, interprets diagnostic brain scans, and asks questions about their symptoms. The epileptologist can determine the severity of a patient's condition and decide on the best course of treatment.
Epileptologists often prescribe anticonvulsant medications and schedule regular checkups with their patients to monitor symptoms. In addition, doctors provide information on how people can reduce their risk of having seizures and what family members can do to prevent injury in the event of an epileptic fit. In the case of severe epilepsy that does not respond to medications, the epileptologist may refer an individual to a brain surgeon to undergo a delicate procedure.
A large number of epileptologists cater their practices to children and adolescents under the age of 18. Seizure disorders can present themselves differently in younger people than in adults, and specialized knowledge of pediatric epilepsy is important to ensure proper treatment. A pediatric epileptologist is usually skilled in speaking with children in an especially friendly manner and in words they can understand. He or she can explain the condition to a child patient and help ease anxiety about examinations and treatment procedures.
In order to become an epileptologist, an individual must first complete four years of study at an accredited medical school. Upon graduation, a new doctor can enter a three-year residency program at a general hospital, where he or she gets the opportunity to work with patients under the supervision of experienced physicians. A successful resident can then pursue a two- to four-year neurology fellowship to receive detailed, hands-on practice with patients who have nervous system disorders. An additional two years of training in a highly-specialized epilepsy program are needed before a doctor can take a licensing exam and begin practicing independently.
Most licensed epileptologists work in private offices or joint practices with other neurology experts. Patients are referred to epileptologists by primary care physicians or hospital doctors for specialized care for their seizure disorders. An epileptologist might choose to work in a general hospital or clinic rather than a private practice, making him or herself available to patients with broader symptoms or undiagnosed conditions.