Today in the United States, nearly 3 million Americans are living with a neurological condition called epilepsy. Also referred to as seizure disorder, epilepsy causes individuals to suffer from sporadic seizures throughout a lifetime.
What causes seizures?
Epilepsy affects individuals of all ages and backgrounds, and for many, this condition remains for a lifetime requiring long-term treatment. It is important to note that not all individuals who experience a seizure will develop epilepsy; however, when individuals repeatedly experience seizures, they will most likely be diagnosed with epilepsy.
The root cause of epilepsy disorder is still unknown. However, for some individuals, it may be due to a genetic disorder, an infectious disease (such as meningitis or AIDS), or a traumatic brain disturbance such as an injury, tumor, or stroke.
In epilepsy, the central nervous system is disturbed due to hyperactivity in the brain cells. Our central nervous system is like a highway that communicates with a series of electrical impulses, and when an electrical impulse goes “out of bounds,” a seizure is experienced.
Epilepsy affects individuals of all ages and backgrounds, and for many, this condition remains for a lifetime requiring treatment.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of epilepsy mirror the symptoms of a general seizure in many ways as a seizure can be experienced with (or without) the loss of consciousness:
Individuals may experience:
- twitching, tingling, dizziness
- temporary confusion
- uncontrollable jerking and muscle movements of the face, neck, and arms
(tonic = rigid limbs, clonic = shaking limbs)
- muscle collapse causing the individual to fall to the ground
- loss of control of bodily functions such as incontinence of bowel or bladder
- psychological disturbances such as intense fear and anxiety
- sudden confusion such as blank stares or “tuning out”
If you, or an individual you are with, is experiencing the following symptoms, it is essential to seek immediate medical help:
- If the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
- Loss of consciousness occurs
- Repeated occurrences without regaining consciousness
- The individual is diabetic or pregnant
- First time experiencing a seizure
First, your doctor will review your symptoms and perform blood testing and neurological exam. Next, diagnostic testing will usually be ordered (EEG, CT Scan, MRI, fMRI, etc.). Once complete, your physician will design a unique long-term treatment plan for you.
Your treatment plan may involve changes in diet, along with anti-epileptic medication, that would reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures. Alternative therapies, such as vagus nerve stimulation, may also be recommended. When seizures affect a specific brain region, epilepsy surgery may be necessary in some cases.
Every state will have its own unique legal issues and restrictions associated with seizure activity. Your physician will certainly discuss “seizure precautions” and what those restrictions may be according to state guidelines.
Living with Epilepsy
For those of you who may be living with epilepsy, know you are not alone. Keeping family and friends informed about your condition can help raise awareness and provide a support system for those you love.
Join epilepsy support groups locally or online and treat your mental and physical health as a priority. Eating well, sleeping well, and spending an ample amount of time outdoors lessens the psychological burden and promotes well-being.
Below we have provided a link from the Epilepsy Foundation as a starting resource. Feel free to share this article with a family member or friend to help us raise awareness to end epilepsy together!
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If you have any questions about epilepsy and seizures or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact the Neurology Office for more help.
Neurology Office, Joseph Kandel M.D. and Associates
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