Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes recurrent seizures of all types. Seizures are episodes of disturbed brain function that cause changes in attention and/or behavior. Epilepsy affects both sexes and all ages. It often begins between ages 2 to 14. The two main categories of seizures are generalized seizures (the whole brain is involved) and partial seizures (a limited area of the brain is involved). Each category has different seizure types.
FREQUENT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Generalized seizures types:
Tonic-clonic (grand mal): complete loss of consciousness, falling, jerking movements, and urine incontinence.
Absence (petit mal): brief loss of consciousness.
Myoclonic: brief jerking movements.
Partial seizures types:
Simple partial: stays conscious, and experiences weakness, numbness, unusual smells or tastes, muscle twitching, turning head to side, visual changes, or vertigo..
Abnormal changes in how the cells in the brain send signals to each other. The reasons it occurs are often unknown.
RISK INCREASES WITH
Family history of seizure disorders.
Brain injury to the fetus during pregnancy.
Birth injury (such as lack of oxygen).
Poisoning from substance abuse or environmental toxins (such as lead poisoning).
Infection of the brain (such as meningitis).
Head injury (such as from accidents or shaken baby syndrome).
Blood sugar problem (hypoglycemia).
Metabolic illness (such as hypocalcemia).
No specific preventive measures.
There is no cure. Treatment can prevent most seizures and allow a near-normal life.
Seizures continue despite treatment.
For some patients, epilepsy carries a stigma. It can lead to emotional problems, difficulty in social and family relationships, and difficulty in finding employment.
Status epilepticus (a prolonged seizure state).
Sudden, unexpected death.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
Your health care provider will do a physical exam. Medical tests usually include blood studies; one or more types of brain scans; and electroencephalogram (EEG), a study of the brain's electrical activity.
Treatment for epilepsy usually involves drug therapy.
Vagus nerve stimulation may be an option. A device implanted in the neck provides mild electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve to help control seizures.
Surgery may be helpful in a few cases. An area of the brain causing seizures may be removed, or certain nerve pathways in the brain may be interrupted.
Seizures may result from too little sleep, stress, not taking your drugs, menstrual periods, or flashing lights.
Wear a medical alert-type bracelet or pendant that shows you have epilepsy (in case you have a seizure).
If you observe a seizure in someone, loosen his or her clothing, lay the person flat and protect him or her from injury.
Anticonvulsant drugs will usually be prescribed. Dosage changes are often needed. If a person is seizure-free for 2 or more years, drug withdrawal may be considered.
No limits. Most states allow persons with epilepsy to drive a vehicle after being seizure-free for 1 year.
No special diet. Don't drink alcohol.
NOTIFY OUR OFFICE IF
You or a family member has symptoms of epilepsy.
Drugs used in treatment produce unexpected side effects.
The pattern of seizure activity changes.
Call 911 (emergency) if the seizure is prolonged, or other symptoms occur that may require emergency care.