Epilepsy treatment

Epilepsy is a condition that affects the nervous system. It may also be called seizure disorder. Although epilepsy can be inherited or due to a brain injury, the cause is unknown for most people who have seizures or epilepsy. A seizure takes place when there is an abnormal amount of electrical activity going on in the brain. Statistics show that at least 5% of the population will have at least one seizure during their lifetime. Out of that 5%, approximately half of them will go on to have more seizures. Anyone that has more than one seizure has a better than 80% chance of having more seizures afterwards.

Those who experience epilepsy can have symptoms and seizures that fall into a wide range of signs and symptoms. No two seizure patients will have exactly the same experience. However there are some similarities that can be looked for if someone suspects that they or a loved one might have a seizure disorder or epilepsy.

A lot of people who have epilepsy will experience what is called an aura or warning that a seizure is going to take place. This is considered an early seizure symptom or the beginning of a seizure by many specialists. Some of the auras or warning signs that have been reported are noticing particular smells that are not there, hearing a distinct sound, having a strange taste in the mouth, having a tingling feeling in the limbs or all over the body, having feelings that are strange in nature or thoughts that are racing by, and visual disturbances such as blurred vision or temporary loss of vision. Other people have no warning signs at all and do not know when a seizure is going to take place.

Seizure activity can range from someone having short periods of fazing out or sort of daydreaming or minor twitching of the limbs to a full blown grand mall seizure where the whole body stiffens and makes thrashing movements. Chewing, drooling, teeth grinding and swallowing as well as loss of consciousness are not uncommon when a seizure takes place. Eyes may flutter or roll up in a person’s head while a seizure is going on. In the period of time after a seizure or what is called the post-ictal phase of the seizure, most people with epilepsy will experience some confusion and may have loss of memory as to what took place during the seizure. They are usually exhausted and may have trouble with talking or coordination of muscles temporarily.

To diagnose epilepsy physicians do testing such as EEG’s then follow those up with MRI’s and PET scans to find the area of the brain that may be affected by the seizure or to see if damage has occurred to the brain due to injury. Once a diagnosis is made then treatment can begin.

There is no cure for epilepsy so a physician’s goal is to keep the person from having seizures as much as possible. Treatment can include medications, surgery and vagus nerve stimulation. As noted above, no two patients will have the same type of seizures or symptoms so each patient will need an individual treatment plan that is tailored to meet their needs.

There are several medications that are approved by the FDA to treat seizures. They are widely used by physicians and there is no one medication that is better than another. As each person is different, they will tolerate and react to medications differently so a physician will have to try a person with epilepsy on seizure medication until they find a regimen that will work for them. Seizure or epilepsy medications are not without their own side effects. Most of these medications make people drowsy and a lot of them affect short term memory.

There is a surgical procedure that can be used to help people with epilepsy who tend to fall down and injure themselves when they have a seizure. This procedure involves separating the nerve fibers that connect the two halves of the brain. While it does not prevent seizure, it can help reduce the number and severity of them.

Vagus nerve stimulation is approved for treatment of seizures for people who are age 13 and older. Research has found by stimulating the vagus nerve, seizures can be reduced in frequency and intensity. Studies show that approximately 50% of people will successfully experience less seizure activity after having vagus nerve stimulation done.

Last updated on Sep 6th, 2009 and filed under Neurological Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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