Epilepsy InformationSeizure disorder, or epilepsy, is a condition of the brain characterized by a susceptibility to recurrent seizures (paroxysmal events associated with abnormal electrical discharges of neurons in the brain). Epilepsy is believed to affect 1 % to 2% of the population. The prognosis is good if the patient with epilepsy adheres strictly to his prescribed treatment
This is a tricky question with no clear-cut answer. Often doctors can't pinpoint exactly what causes epilepsy in a particular individual. But scientists do know that these are some of the things that can make a person more likely to develop epilepsy:
Signs and symptomsThe hallmark of epilepsy is recurring seizures, which can be classified as partial, generalized, status epilepticus, or unclassified (some patients may be affected by more than one type).
Arising from a localized area of the brain, partial seizures cause focal symptoms. These seizures are classified by their effect on consciousness and whether they spread throughout the motor strip, causing a generalized seizure.
A simple partial seizure begins locally and generally does not cause an alteration in consciousness. It is not uncommon for this type to present with sensory symptoms (lights flashing, smells, hearing hallucinations), autonomic symptoms (sweating, flushing, pupil dilation), and psychic symptoms (dream states, anger, fear). The seizure lasts for a few seconds and occurs without preceding or provoking events.
A complex partial seizure involves impairment in consciousness. Amnesia for the events that occur during and immediately after the seizure is a differentiating characteristic. During the seizure, the patient may follow simple commands. This type of partial seizure generally lasts for 1 to 3 minutes
As the term suggests, generalized seizures cause a generalized electrical abnormality within the brain. They can be convulsive or nonconvulsive and include several types.
Status epilepticus is a continuous seizure state that can occur in all seizure types. The most life-threatening example is generalized tonic-clonic status epilepticus, a continuous generalized tonic-clonic seizure without intervening return of consciousness.
Status epilepticus is accompanied by respiratory distress. It can result from abrupt withdrawal of anticonvulsant medications, hypoxic encephalopathy, acute head trauma, metabolic encephalopathy, or septicemia secondary to encephalitis or meningitis.
This category is reserved for seizures that don't fit the characteristics of partial or generalized seizures or status epilepticus. Included as unclassified are events that lack the data to make a more definitive diagnosis.
Clinically, the diagnosis of epilepsy is based on the occurrence of one or more seizures and proof or the assumption that the condition that caused them is still present.
Diagnostic information is obtained from the patient's history and description of seizure activity, family history, physical and neurologic examinations, and computed tomographic scanning or magnetic resonance imaging. These scans offer density readings of the brain and may indicate abnormalities in internal structures.
Paroxysmal abnormalities on the EEG confirm the diagnosis by providing evidence of the continuing tendency to have seizures. A negative EEG doesn't rule out epilepsy because the paroxysmal abnormalities occur intermittently. Other tests include serum glucose and calcium studies, skull X-rays, lumbar puncture, brain scan, and cerebral angiography.
Generally, treatment of epilepsy consists of drug or medication therapy specific to the type of seizure. The most commonly prescribed drugs include phenytoin, carbamazepine, phenobarbital, and primidone administered individually for generalized tonic-clonic seizures and complex partial seizures.
For some people, surgery is successful if drugs fails. Avoiding known triggers and attention to lifestyle can sometimes improve seizure control.
If the seizures are related to another medical condition, identification and treatment of that medical condition is the key to prevention. If anticonvulsant medication is prescribed, taking the medication on the recommended schedule and not missing medication is important.
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