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Epilepsy

Symptoms and treatment of epilepsy

Epilepsy is perhaps one of the most misunderstood diseases by the general population. It is a seizure disorder that is suffered by all ages, from children to adults. However, with careful information and treatment, epilepsy can be controlled in such a way that epileptic seizures will be significantly decreased over a patient's lifetime.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is known as a seizure disorder and is diagnosed by a neurologist. Normally, someone with epilepsy has had two seizures that were not caused by alcohol, drugs or extremely low blood sugar. It can be caused by a family tendency towards the disease, or it can be the result of a brain injury, but the cause of epilepsy is largely unknown.

A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain that affects how a person thinks or feels for a short period of time. They can be very severe or almost unnoticed. It all depends on the severity of the epilepsy. A seizure has a clear beginning, middle and end. There are two types of seizures – grand mal, which involves physical and mental capacities, and petit mal, which may be almost unnoticeable, except to the person suffering.

Symptoms of a Seizure

Seizures vary from person to person, and the following symptoms encompass just a few types of seizures:

  • Blacking out or loss of consciousness
  • Physical movements including hand waving, eyelids fluttering, falling down, shaking, stiffening, staring, drooling and breathing difficulty
  • Incontinence
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Confusion, deafness, increased sense of smell, visual loss or blurring
  • Feelings of fear and panic
  • "Zoning out" or feeling like you're having an out-of-body experience

If you or someone you know has a seizure, do not place anything in their mouth. Move the person away from sharp edges or harmful objects and wait the seizure out. The person may vomit upon coming to or may need to sleep deeply after the seizure. Paramedics should be called if the seizure becomes violent or prolonged.

Treatment

When you are diagnosed with epilepsy by a neurological physician, he or she will perform a CT scan of the brain, or an EEG. An MRI to view the brain may also be performed. Then, the doctor will be able to help you manage your seizures with epilepsy medication, such as sodium channel blockers or calcium channel blockers. An epilepsy drug works to reduce seizure activity to the point where you may not experience seizures at all. Ativan and Valium are used to treat a seizure while it's happening. There are many different types of epilepsy medicine; if one drug doesn't work, another might. Talk to your doctor about side effects or concerns.

Surgery

Surgery is another treatment used for epilepsy, if there is an instance of a benign tumor or an area of scar tissue. If surgery cannot be performed, ketogenic diet epilepsy treatments have been found to be very successful in some patients. This treatment involves a diet plan[Diet] high in fat and low in carbohydrates, with limited fluid intake. If drugs have also proven ineffective, a ketogenic diet may help an epileptic.

Epilepsy is upsetting, but it can be controlled. It doesn't have to be something that you worry about for the rest of your life. Support groups and resources are available online and through your hospital.

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