A few people have asked me how I was even diagnosed with epilepsy to begin with. I am still trying to figure out the full answer to this question. However, I think the main reason is because the general neurologist that misdiagnosed me misread my (multiple) EEGs. He read my normal EEGs as having extensive seizure activity.
Why the confusion?
According to the epilepsy specialist I eventually saw, my EEG results showed that I was drowsy during the tests. People who are drowsy have different brain waves than people who are wide awake. If you've ever felt that your brain was asleep, it probably was! Unfortunately, the general neurologist who misdiagnosed me incorrectly interpreted the drowsy brain waves as seizure activity.
To be fair, the general neurologist did ask me about my medical history before officially (mis)diagnosing me with epilepsy. To be equally fair, I answered his questions as accurately as possible. I explained my entire medical history (asthma, allergies, eczema, bruxism, IBS, PCOS, sleep apnea, migraines, tinnitus, thalassemia minor, etc.). I also told him about my ME/CFS, including the neurological problems associated with it (brain fog, memory problems, attention problems, insomnia, etc.). I can only assume he believed my neurological symptoms to be from seizures. How wrong he was.
Following is an edited version of the letter I sent to the neurologist that misdiagnosed me with epilepsy. As I mentioned in my last post, I don't expect a response; however, I think the doctor needs to understand the danger of incorrectly diagnosing someone.
Dear Dr. S,
As you have probably already learned, Dr. D, epileptologist at the C Epilepsy Center, has examined my case. After reviewing my medical history and EEG results (three from your office and one ordered by Dr. D), he has determined that I do not have epilepsy.
After living with the epilepsy diagnosis and having been on antiepileptic drugs for nearly a year (and suffering from side effects, including an anaphylactic reaction to Trileptal), this news came as quite a shock. While I am thrilled and relieved that I do not have epilepsy, I am trying to understand how I could have been so wrongly diagnosed. According to Dr. D, all of my EEG results appeared normal and my medical history did not indicate epilepsy. He asked me why an EEG was ordered in the first place.
I have since stopped taking Keppra and Topamax. Many of the symptoms I was complaining about -- extreme fatigue and weakness, difficulty going up stairs, twitching, difficulty thinking -- have improved dramatically. It appears that medication side-effects were the cause of many of my problems.
Because of the diagnosis, I was prescribed unwarranted medications, had unnecessary medical appointments and tests, experienced a life-threatening event resulting in hospitalization, and missed long periods of work. My husband also paid a price; he took off work on multiple occasions to drive me to medical appointments and had to undertake additional responsibilities at home because I was too exhausted to help. All of these events took a physical, mental, and financial toll.
I am writing because I want you to understand that this misdiagnosis greatly disrupted every aspect of my life for the past year. I shudder to think how much more suffering I would have undergone had I not referred myself to an epileptologist. I hope you will consider my case a learning experience, as I do not want others to endure what I have been through. Perhaps, taking additional classes on reading EEG results or referring possible epilepsy patients to a specialist for a second opinion would be a good idea. Familiarizing yourself with medication side effects might also be beneficial. Patients would respect you more for proactively looking out for their well-being.
I would be grateful for any response you might have regarding my misdiagnosis. I am trying to comprehend the last year.