When it comes to epilepsy, knowledge is power. Whether you've had epilepsy for years or you are newly diagnosed, the more you know, the more you can do to control epilepsy and live life on your terms.

What is epilepsy?

Let's start with the basics. Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes the brain to produce sudden bursts of electrical energy. For the brain to function, there needs to be a balance between increased activity (excitation) and restraint (inhibition). When this balance is changed a seizure may result.

What causes epilepsy?

Epilepsy can result from a birth defect, birth or head injury, brain tumor, or infection in the brain. It can also be inherited. But for half of the people with epilepsy, no cause can be found. Epilepsy is not contagious. Epilepsy can occur for the first time at any time, including during old age.

What is a seizure?

A seizure is a change in sensation, awareness, or behavior brought about by an electical disturbance in the brain. Seizures are a symptom of epilepsy. There are several different types of seizures.
Seizures can range from tingling in a finger to a generalized (grand mal) seizure, during which people lose consciousness, become stiff, and jerk.

What is the difference between seizures and epilepsy?

Seizures are a symptom of epilepsy. Epilepsy is the underlying tendency of the brain to release electrical energy that disrupts other brain functions. So the seizure is the symptom of this underlying condition. Having a single seizure does not necessarily mean a person has epilepsy.

What are the different types of seizures?

It is important you know the kind of seizures you have so you can seek the best treatment. Here is an overview of different types of seizures:
  • Partial seizures begin in a specific part of the brain. These include:
  • Simple Partial - A seizure that does not alter consciousness. May produce abnormal sensations, such as an unpleasant smell, or a motor movement, such as jerking of the arm
  • Complex Partial - Seizure that alters consciousness causing confusion
  • Complex Partial With Secondary Generalization - Seizure that starts as complex partial, but becomes a generalized seizure affecting both sides of the brain
  • Generalized seizures affect both hemispheres of the brain. These include:
  • Absence - Previously known as petit mal, triggers a short lapse in consciousness. Most often seen in children
  • Atonic - Previously known as a drop attack, causes a complete loss of muscle control and results in collapse
  • Myoclonic - Triggers sudden jerking in the muscles, often in the arms and legs
  • Tonic-Clonic - Triggers a fall to the ground (tonic phase) followed by jerking movements (clonic phase)
Other types of seizures:
  •     Febrile Seizures - caused by high fever in young children; does not always lead to epilepsy
  •     Status Epilipticus - Severe, life-threatening, nonstop seizures; can be either partial or generalized

Which doctors treat epilepsy?

Neurologists, pediatric neurologists, pediatricians, neurosurgeons, internists, and family physicians all provide treatment for epilepsy.
A neurologist is a physician who specializes in diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles. A neurologist who specializes in epilepsy is an epileptologist.
People whose seizures are difficult to control have many options and may seek treatment in large hospitals, medical centers, neurological clinics at universities and from specialists in private practice.

How many people in the U.S. have epilepsy?

Estimates range from about 1.4 to 2.7 million people, depending on the diagnostic criteria and study method used. Epilepsy can occur at any age but is most frequently seen in the very young and the elderly.

How will my epilepsy affect me?

Your epilepsy is as individual as you are. For some people, it's a childhood condition that might be outgrown. For others, epilepsy may have a more significant effect. Seizures may restrict driving, working, and social opportunities and also affect self-esteem. But remember, you can influence how epilepsy will affect you. With the right treatment, you can expect to live your life as you choose.
Most people's seizures can be controlled. Some people end their seizures with the first epilepsy medication they try. Others will need to partner with their neurologist or epileptologist to find the right dosage and combination of medications. Epilepsy medications are helpful for many people, while some will need to have the specific source of their seizures surgically removed.

from: www.epilepsyadvocate.com


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