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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.
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:
- Brain malformations
- Lack of oxygen during, or before delivery, or at birth.
- Low levels of blood sugar, blood calcium, blood magnesium or other electrolyte
- Inborn errors of metabolism (chemical disorders)
- Intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)
- Maternal drug use
- Infants and Children
- Fever (febrile seizures)
- Brain tumor (rarely)
- 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
- Alzheimer's disease
- Head trauma
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:
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.