What is Epilepsy?
When a person has had two or more seizures without any medical reason or chemical exposure such as alcohol withdrawal or the influence of other drugs then that person has epilepsy.
Who develops Epilepsy?
Most of the time when someone has epilepsy we do not know why they have developed it. Sometimes we are able to find a cause such as a previous infection that affected the brain or the meninges, a previous stroke, a previous injury, consequences from a tumor, genetic predisposition to epilepsy, or even developmental causes.
Seizures can appear in any age group. Most of the time the first seizures start in children who are less than 2 years old, or in children 5-8 years old, or during puberty, or in adults after age 60. Even though those are the common age groups, a person of any age may develop epilepsy.
Testing for Epilepsy
EEG, sleep deprived EEG, video EEG monitoring, CT scan, MRI of the brain with contrast are the most common tests recommended. Sometimes patients are recommended for genetic testing based on their health and family medical history.
Treatments for Epilepsy
Oral medications such as phenobarbital (luminal), phenytoin (dilantin), primidone (mysoline), valproate (depakote), ethosuximide (zarontin), oxcarbazepine (trileptal), carbamazepine (tegretol) are well known older medications that are effective in controlling epilepsy for many patients. Newer medications include topiramate (topamax), zonisamide (zonegran), perampanel (fycompa), lamotrigine (lamictal), lacosamide (vimpat), levetiracetam (keppra), clobazam (onfi), brivaracetam (briviact), cenobamate (xcopri) are also successful treatments for epilepsy.
If medications are not enough to stop seizures fully then additional treatments are available. Vagal nerve stimulation or specialized surgeries to neutralize or remove small areas of the brain that cause the seizures can be done after careful evaluations for individual patients. Another option is implantation of a deep brain stimulator. In some medical centers transcranial magnetic stimulation is used to help stop seizures in patients with epilepsy. For some patients a strict medically supervised diet called the
I have Epilepsy
It takes time and reading to understand epilepsy as a disease and how to live with this condition. Here are some outstanding resources to start learning more:
- Epilepsy Foundation: https://www.epilepsy.com/learn