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Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes people to have seizures. The seizures may be mild or severe. Multiple variables can cause an epileptic seizure, with stress and anxiety being two of the most commonly self-reported seizure triggers.
During a seizure, your brain experiences sudden, temporary, uncontrolled electrical activity that can cause bizarre thoughts or sensations, a loss of consciousness, and convulsions. Seizures impact different people in different ways.
Symptoms of an epileptic seizure vary based upon the type of seizure and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:
For about 50% of the people with epilepsy, no cause is known. In the other half, the condition may be mapped to various factors, including:
Besides stress and anxiety, other triggers include:
There are three types of seizures: focal onset, generalized onset, and unknown onset.
All seizures have three phases: beginning, middle (ictal), and ending (post-ictal).
The beginning phase has two parts: the prodrome stage and the aura.
Not all people experience the prodrome stage or aura during the beginning phase.
The middle phase is called the ictal phase and is the most active part of the seizure when intense electrical activity is firing in the brain. It’s defined as the time from the first symptom to the end of the seizure.
The final stage marks the end of the seizure and is the time people will begin to feel the physical after effects. It’s also when recovery starts to take place. The amount of time it takes to recover will depend on the type of seizure and the part of the brain involved.
Your doctor will evaluate you for epilepsy if you’ve had more than two seizures in your lifetime.
To start the diagnosis, your doctor will review your full medical history and the events leading up to the seizure. They will want to know of any symptoms that appeared pre-seizure, like migraine headaches, sleep disorders, and extreme psychological stress.
Next, your doctor will use lab tests to rule out other conditions that can cause seizure-like activity. The tests may include:
Imaging scans such as a CT scan or MRI scan can also be effective in providing a clear picture of the brain. These scans allow your doctor to see abnormalities like blocked blood flow or a tumor.
The best way to treat epilepsy is by treating the cause of the seizures. In doing so, you may be able to prevent future seizures from occurring. Treatment options include:
Choosing the right anti-epileptic drug (AED) depends on several factors:
There are two types of medications for epilepsy: narrow-spectrum AEDs and broad-spectrum AEDs.
Early warning signs of a seizure can include:
A mini seizure (also known as a simple partial seizure) affects only one area of your brain, doesn’t cause unconsciousness and typically only lasts 30 seconds to a minute.
In some cases, yes. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, if a person’s mother, father or sibling has epilepsy, their risk of developing epilepsy by the age of 40 is less than 1 in 20.
Depending on the kind of seizure, brain damage can occur. Longer seizures have been shown to injure the brain, while brief, more isolated seizures can possibly cause the loss of specific brain cells.
There is an increased risk for seizures for adults with epilepsy over the age of 60.
Every state has their own requirements on allowing people with epilepsy to drive a car. In general, drivers must show proof that they’ve been seizure free for a specific period of time and submit a physician’s evaluation of their ability to drive safely.
None. There isn’t any supporting evidence that a specific type of kind of food consistently triggers seizures in people with epilepsy.
Epilepsy is considered a medical condition, not a disability. However, adults with epilepsy may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.