Epilepsy

Epilepsy

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Epilepsy is a condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. These seizures happen when clusters of nerve cells in the brain signal abnormally which may briefly alter a person's movements, actions or even consciousness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, epilepsy affects 2.2 million Americans. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the U.S. after migraine, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease. Its prevalence is greater than autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease combined.

Causes

With the exception of very young children and the elderly, the cause of the abnormal brain function is usually not identifiable. When seizures occur, a physician will try to find an underlying cause however there is only a clear cause for epilepsy in a minority of cases. Typically the known causes of seizures involve some type of injury to the brain. Although there is growing knowledge of Epilepsy and its causes, still approximately 70% of cases are of an unknown cause.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the following have been identified as potential causes:

Newborns

  • Brain malformations
  • Lack of oxygen during, or before delivery, or at birth.
  • Low levels of blood sugar, blood calcium, blood magnesium or other electrolyte disturbances
  • Inborn errors of metabolism (chemical disorders)
  • Intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)
  • Maternal drug use

Infection (meningitis)

  • Infants and Children
  • Fever (febrile seizures)
  • Brain tumor (rarely)
  • Infections
  • Brain Malformation

Children and Adults

  • Congenital conditions (Down syndrome; Angelman's syndrome; tuberous sclerosis and neurofibromatosis)
  • Genetic factors (Primary seizure disorders)
  • Progressive brain disease (rare)
  • Head trauma

Elderly

  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Head trauma

Symptoms

The main symptom or signs of Epilepsy are seizures. The seizures vary from person to person and they could be subtle or they could be drastic. An affected person could simply stare at nothing for a few seconds, they could lose consciousness, could exhibit strange behavior, like speaking nonsense, or could convulse violently. Although they can vary, symptoms can usually be associated with the type of seizure a person has. Seizure types can be identified by what type of body functions are affected and the extent of the seizure.

Types of seizures may include:

Diagnosis

Because there are various conditions that can cause seizures, the diagnosis of epilepsy is based much on what is relayed to the doctor by the patient. However, because a person having a seizure sometimes cannot remember or account for the details of what happened it is also good to have the seizures witnessed so that the person witnessing can document the symptoms associated with the seizure and provide the information to the physician.

Your physician will want to also capture a complete medical history and as much information as possible including family history of epilepsy or other neurological conditions. Your physician will also want to get detailed information about when the seizures started, what type of seizures you are experiencing and what you were doing immediately preceding the seizure.

There are also other diagnostic tests that can be done that your doctor will order such as an EEG or CT Scan. Your physician or expert at SCCNS will explain all diagnostic procedures during your initial consultation.

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