What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, which are involuntary seizures caused by disturbances in the brain’s electrical activity. Epileptic symptoms may vary depending on the type of epilepsy an individual has and are divided into two categories: partial and generalized seizures. Partial seizures only cause symptoms in one region of the brain while generalized seizures affect all parts of the brain simultaneously.
Types of seizures include:
- Focal seizures and focal epilepsy
- Generalized seizures
- Myoclonic seizures
- Tonic and clonic seizures
- Tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures
The CDC reports there are approximately 3.4 million people living with epilepsy nationwide. Epilepsy can be caused by genetic mutations, brain damage due to poisoning or trauma, tumors on the brain, lack of oxygen during birth, infections of the central nervous system (though this is rare), malnutrition, and exposure to toxins during pregnancy.
Epileptic seizure symptoms often begin to appear during childhood, though most people are not diagnosed until adulthood. Symptoms usually develop very rapidly over a few seconds to a few minutes. Episodes are usually brief but in some cases, may continue for several days or weeks.
Symptoms of an epileptic seizure include:
- Staring spells with no muscle contractions.
- Entering a dream-like state
- Jerking movements of the arms and legs.
- Stiffening of the body.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Breathing problems or paused breathing.
- Loss of bowel or bladder control.
- Falling suddenly for no apparent reason, especially when associated with loss of consciousness.
Epilepsy diagnosis often begins with the observation of specific symptoms that indicate possible seizures by family, friends, or witnesses. Epileptic seizure symptoms may be further confirmed with electroencephalogram (EEG) event recordings taken in an office setting.
Other tests used in diagnosis include:
- EEG Event recordings
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Computerized tomography (CAT scan)
- Single Photon Emission computed tomography (SPECT)
- Positron emission tomography (PET).
- Wada Testing
- Neuropsychological, speech and hearing evaluations
Epileptic seizures may be prevented or the severity of seizures reduced using antiepileptic drugs and/or surgery. Our neurologist will work with you to confirm your diagnosis, and suggest the most effective treatment therapies.
Types of epilepsy treatment include:
- Epilepsy Treatment – Antiseizure medication may be used to treat your symptoms and control their frequency and severity. Our neurologist will work with you to determine the most appropriate medication and dosage for your condition.
- Epilepsy Surgery – Our neurosurgeons use the most advanced technology available to treat epilepsy and surgery may be considered a meaningful alternative to long-term medications. Neurosurgery may be necessary in the event medications do not work or if the side effects of the medication become difficult for patients to tolerate.