What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a Neurological Disorder that produces sudden brief surges of electrical energy in the brain. These episodes called seizures, may alter a persons awareness, movements, or actions for a few seconds or minutes.
Anyone can have a seizure if the brain is stressed by infection, fever, injury,lack of oxygen or poisoning. Seizures that happen more than once for no apparent reason are defined as EPILEPSY. Epilepsy is sometimes called a seizure disorder.
When does epilepsy usually begin?
Epilepsy can begin at anytime or life but most often under the age of 17 or over 65.
How many people in the U.S. have epilepsy?
About one in every hundred, currently about 2.5 million Americans
What causes epilepsy?
More than half the time, no cause can be found. Known causes include severe head injury, stroke, brain tumor, genetic conditions, lead poisoning, problems in brain development before birth, illnesses that affect the brain, like meningitis, or encephalitis or even severe cases of measles.
Can it be prevented?
At present, the only way of preventing epilepsy is by reducing risks from things that damage the brain. Vaccines against certain infections, wearing protective head gear, using seat belts and child safety seats in automobiles all help to protect the brain. Research may one day provide ways to identify people at risk of seizures and to prevent epilepsy before it begins.
Is Epilepsy Inherited?
Sometimes. Epilepsy-related genes have been identified for some types of epilepsy, As research in this area continues, new ones are likely to be discovered. However, seizures may also begin when there’s no family history of the condition at all.
Is Epilepsy Contagious?
No. Epilepsy is NOT contagious.
Does it get worse over time?
In most cases, epilepsy does not get worse over time, unless there’s a change in the underlying condition that is causing the seizures. Some children with epilepsy grow out of the tendency to have seizures. Some people find that their seizures go into remission after a period of time. Others may experience periods of sharp changes in how often their seizures occur.
What makes a seizure happen?
Stress and lack of sleep may trigger seizures in people with epilepsy. Certain types of strobes, flashing lights or images may produce seizures in photosensitive people, including some who do not have epilepsy. The most common seizure trigger is missing doses of the medications that treat epilepsy. Often, seizures happen for no apparent reason.
What kind of seizures do people have?
The best known type is a convulsion, also known as grand mal or a generalized tonic clonic seizure. Other seizures produce brief staring, loss of awareness, blackouts, uncontrolled shaking muscle jerks, changes in feeling. The most common type of seizure makes a person lose awareness of where he or she is or what they are doing. Someone having this type of seizure can’t control actions, speech, or movement until it is over.
What is an Aura?
An aura is a feeling or experience that some people with Epilepsy have that warns them that a Seizure is about to happen. Some people have an aura long enough before loss of consciousness that they can prepare for the seizure and move away from anything that could hurt them.
Do seizures injure the brain?
The average seizure, which lasts only a few seconds or a couple of minutes, does not seem to injure the brain, although many such seizures over a lifetime may have some negative effects. Seizures which last a long time (over 30 minutes to hours) may produce brain damage.
Can people die during a seizure?
It is possible, although fortunately it does not happen very often. Still, there are some serious risks associated with having epilepsy. A seizure while swimming, or climbing, or driving a car could cause serious injury or death. Occasionally someone having a seizure may fall in such a way that breathing is blocked. In rare cases, breathing may not start again after a convulsion ends, in which case CPR should be given. Non-Stop seizures are a medical emergency and may also be deadly if they continue long enough. Also, there is a rare condition called sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP), in which the person typically a young adult with hard to control seizures, dies for no apparent reason.
Could someone with epilepsy hurt someone else during a seizure?
That’s unlikely to happen. A person who is having a seizure cannot control his actions and is therefore not capable of carrying out a deliberate attack on someone else while it is going on. However, if someone having a seizure is grabbed or held down during an episode of automatic behavior, he might lash out instinctively at whoever is restraining him or her.
Are seizures with fever related to epilepsy?
A seizure caused by a high fever is like a seizure caused by epilepsy, but in most cases infants and children with fever-triggered (febrile) seizures do not go on to develop epilepsy. Although it’s often not possible to prevent febrile seizures in very young children, there may be some things that will help reduce fever that the doctor may recommend. Parents should get medical attention immediately if a baby has a convulsion for any reason.
Should you put something in a person’s mouth during a seizure?
No, you should never put ANYTHING in the mouth of someone who is having a seizure. If the person is having a generalized tonic clonic (grand mal) seizure, you should turn them gently on one side to keep the airway clear and prevent choking.
Should you always call an ambulance when someone has a seizure?
You probably do not need to call an ambulance if you know the person has epilepsy, if the seizure only lasts a couple of minutes and if he or she is breathing and waking up normally afterwards.
When should you call for help?
You should call an ambulance if you don’t know whether or not the person has epilepsy (a seizure can be the sign of a serious illness), or if that person is injured, has diabetes, is pregnant, or appears to be ill in anyway. You should also call for help if the seizure lasts longer than 5 (FIVE) minutes, if another seizure quickly follows the first, or if the person cannot be awakened or is not breathing properly after the seizure has stopped.
Can epilepsy be treated?
Yes, The most common form of treatment for epilepsy is daily medication to prevent seizures from happening. If seizures continue, surgery, a special diet or nerve stimulation may be tried.
How successful is the treatment?
It is quite successful in many people. Studies show that medications, called anticonvulsant or antiepileptic drugs, control seizures completely in about 50 percent of people with epilepsy. Other people continue to have some seizures despite treatment, and about one in four continues to have seizures frequently.
What kind of Surgery is used for epilepsy?
Surgery for epilepsy is usually done to remove a small area of the brain where the seizures typically begin. In many cases, the seizures will then stop, or be greatly reduced.
Surgeons will only operate when the possible benefits outweight the risks. Other types of surgery may be considered in some cases.
What kind of diet is used to treat epilepsy?
It’s called a ketogenic diet, It’s a strict diet, very high in fats, very low in carbohydrates, with restricted calories. It produces a chemical change in the body, called ketosis, which prevents or reduces seizures in up to two thirds of the children who are placed on it. The diet is usually tried after medications have failed to stop seizures or if their are troubling side effects. Like other treatments for epilepsy, it must be prescribed and monitored by a physician.
How does nerve stimulation work?
It’s called vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) it delivers short bursts of electrical energy into the brain via the vagus nerve, a large nerve in the neck. The stimulation comes from a battery, about the size of a silver dollar, which is surgically implanted under the skin and attached to the vagus nerve in the same procedure. The physician programs the device to deliver small bursts of electrical stimulation every few minutes.
Do vitamins or herbal products prevent seizures?
So far, there is no evidence that any herbal product is effective in preventing seizures. In rare cases, lack of vitamin B and magnesium can lead to seizures, but it’s not a good idea to take extra vitamins of any kind without checking with your Doctor. Sometimes the Doctor will prescribe extra vitamins for people with epilepsy, but these are usually to make up for vitamins lost through the effect of epilepsy medications rather than to prevent seizures.
Does epilepsy affect mental ability?
There may be some effects, although in general, people with epilepsy have a normal range of intelligence. In other words, some are very intelligent, some are not, and everyone else ranks somewhere in the middle. Both seizures and the medications to control them may affect memory and concentration in some people. Also, epilepsy can be caused by many different conditions, some of which themselves may reduce mental ability or create learning disabilities.
Is epilepsy a mental illness?
No. Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain. Epilepsy and mental illness are separate conditions, but it is possible for someone to have both. Mood disorders like depression and anxiety are unfortunately quite common in people with epilepsy, and should be brought to the doctor’s attention, since both can be treated. Also, brain injuries that produce seizures may sometimes affect mood and behavior.
Can someone with epilepsy get a driver’s license?
Yes, if the seizures are under reliable control and the person is under a physician’s care. Each state has laws about how long someone with epilepsy must be seizure free before being allowed to drive-usually between three months and one year. States may require a doctor’s statement that the person is under care and can drive safely.
Can people with epilepsy hold jobs?
Yes. People whose seizures are reliably controlled on medication can work at most jobs. Others may still have seizures, but can be valuable employees when placed in the right job or when accommodations are made. Each person’s abilities and/or limitations should be considered individually.
Is it illegal for employers to refuse to hire a qualified person just because he or she has epilepsy?
Yes. The Americans with Disabilities Act outlaws this type of discrimination against otherwise qualified people who have disabilities that amount to a significant impairment. Many states have passed special laws which also forbid discrimination against qualified people with disabilities. In addition, federal regulations forbid employers who receive federal contracts or agencies which receive federal funds from discriminating in this way.
Can people with epilepsy drink alcohol?
Some can and some can’t. Heavy use of alcohol is likely to make seizures worse.Moderate use depends on the effect on the individual. There may also be a risk in the use of alcohol when epilepsy medicines are being taken. Many doctor’s advise their patients with epilepsy to avoid alcohol altogether.
Can people with epilepsy get insurance?
It depends on the type of insurance and the state in which the person is living. People may find themselves turned down for private coverage, subject to exclusions for epilepsy care or only covered at very high rates. Many states now offer pool insurance for those who have been denied private insurance.
Can people with epilepsy play sports?
In most cases, the answer is yes, although a lot depends on how well their seizures are controlled, the type of sport and what the doctor recommends. Research suggests that people are likely to have fewer seizures when actively occupied.
What about Swimming?
That depends on how often the seizures happen, and what the person’s doctor recommends. A child or adult with reasonably good seizure control should be able to swim safely, so long as he is swimming with other people who know about the epilepsy and are good enough swimmers to help if a seizure should occur.