Conditions and Treatments

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder that is characterized by unpredictable seizures. It is a spectrum condition with a wide range of seizure types that vary for each patient. It is the fourth most common neurological disorder and affects people of all ages.

Epilepsy is caused by electrical events that occur in the brain. The location of those events and how the brain is affected, and how long it lasts all have profound effects. These factors determine the character of a seizure and its impact on the individual. Esssentially, anything the brain can do, it can do in the form of a seizure.

Symptoms

Seizures are the only visible symptom of epilepsy. There are different kinds of seizures and their symptoms can vary for everyone. They often happen without warning.

Seizures typically last from a few seconds to a few minutes. You may be alert during the seizure or lose consciousness. You may not remember what happened during the seizure or may not even realize you had a seizure. Some seizures can cause your muscles to stiffen or jerk uncontrollably. Other seizures may make you stare into space for a moment of time or include a few muscle twitches.

Diagnosis

Epilepsy is typically diagnosed after you have experienced at least two seizures that were not caused by a known medical condition. Your medical history and information from anyone who has witnessed your symptoms are extremely important, because what happens during a seizure provides your doctor with a lot of important information.

Blood tests, EEG tests, and brain imaging tests such as CT and MRI scans may also be used to provide your doctor with additional information about the electrical activity of your brain, what the brain looks like, and possible causes of your seizures.

Treatment

There are a number of anti-seizure medications available on the market. They change the way your brain cells work and send messages to each other. Lifestyle modifications and nerve stimulation are two other common methods to treat seizures. Surgery is also an option for some people whose seizures cannot be controlled by medications and other therapies.

Information provided by the Epilepsy Foundation.