On average, an epilepsy center may conduct more than 4,000 EEGs yearly. Healthcare providers commonly rely on EEG tests to help diagnose and monitor a number of conditions affecting the brain. It may help identify the cause of certain symptoms – such as seizures or memory problems – or find out more about a condition you’ve already been diagnosed with. EEG tests assist physicians with identifying the type of epilepsy and potential triggers while determining the best course of treatment.
However, you may be wondering about EEG test side effects. Although EEG tests are safe, there is still a small risk of side effects.
This article explains what’s involved with an EEG test, the potential side effects you may experience, and how to prepare for an upcoming procedure.
Getting an EEG Test
EEG tests look for abnormalities within your brain waves or your brain’s electrical activity. When you undergo an EEG, the electrodes will be applied and adhered to your scalp. These electrodes are produced in the shape of a cup or disc and consist of thin wires attached to small metal discs.
EEG electrodes detect small electrical charges resulting from brain cell activity. These charges are then amplified and will appear on your physician’s computer screen as a graph or as a printed recording. From there, your healthcare provider will read the results and interpret them.
How Long Is an EEG Test?
An EEG test typically lasts between 20 and 40 minutes. During this procedure, you’ll rest quietly and may be asked to open and close your eyes from time to time.
You’ll typically be asked to perform breathing exercises such as deep breathing in and out for a few minutes. This is called hyperventilation.
EEG Test Side Effects
The EEG has been used for many years and is considered a safe procedure. EEGs are painless. The electrodes record your brain’s activity and do not produce any sensation.
The most common side effect of an EEG is feeling slightly tired after testing. Your physician may ask you to arrive at the office a bit sleep-deprived, perhaps getting two to three hours less sleep than the night before.
Some people have reported feeling lightheaded; generally, this is due to the breathing exercises and is considered a normal reaction. You might also notice a tingling sensation in your fingers and lips for several moments after the hyperventilation component of the test has been completed.
You may be exposed to flashing bursts of light and may see different colors or patterns during this part of the exam. If you have epilepsy, there may be a very small chance a seizure occurs during the test. However, you’ll be closely monitored throughout the test with help readily available.
If you live with other medical conditions, you may experience different side effects. Always speak with your physician before getting an EEG to understand the potential side effects so you can prepare for them.
Preparing For an EEG
Your healthcare provider will explain the steps needed to prepare for an EEG. Below are some common ways you may be asked to best prepare for your upcoming test.
- You and your doctor will discuss the test and what to expect; this is the best time to ask any questions you may have regarding the procedure, interpreting results, and so forth
- You’ll sign a consent form that grants permission for you to complete the procedure; thoroughly read the form and ask questions if something is unclear
- Arrive for your appointment with clean and dry hair, without any oils or heavy products
- Do not use any hair products, such as styling gel or hairspray
- Inform your physician of any medications you are currently taking; this includes over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, and herbal supplements/vitamins
- If your healthcare provider advises you to discontinue medications that may affect the test results, do so; however, do not stop taking medications without first consulting a physician
- Avoid caffeinated food or drinks for 8 to 12 hours before the procedure
- If your healthcare provider gives you directions for reducing your sleep the night before the procedure, make sure to follow them
Your physician may request additional preparations based on whether you live with other medical conditions.
Schedule Your EEG Today
An EEG is a safe procedure used to chart potential abnormalities within brain waves. This test is painless and poses minimal risk for side effects. Be sure to speak to your healthcare provider about any questions or concerns you may have prior to the procedure.
Neurocare of Nevada offers in-office neurodiagnostic procedures, including EEG testing. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.