4 facts you should know about epilepsy

A neurologist explains important facts you should know about epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a neurological condition diagnosed after a person has two or more seizures without another cause. Epilepsy can have a significant effect on quality of life for individuals and entire families. A person with uncontrolled seizures should not drive, swim, climb a ladder or sometimes even cook without supervision.

William F. Dotson II, M.D., medical director of epilepsy services and neurologist with Norton Neurology Services, explains four facts you should know about epilepsy.

Having a seizure does not necessarily mean you have epilepsy

In fact, about 1 in 27 people will experience an unprovoked seizure in their lifetime, but only about one-quarter of them will develop epilepsy. The term, “epilepsy,” simply means having at least two seizures that have no other obvious known cause (examples of provoking causes could include blood sugar changes, medications, electrolyte abnormalities, etc.). There are many different types of epilepsy, and a person with epilepsy may have multiple types of seizures. The medical history, types of seizures and results of medical tests all help determine the kind of epilepsy a person has.

A seizure is a single event that occurs at a specific moment

The symptoms of a seizure depend on the part of the brain involved in the seizure. These can range from smelling a specific scent, experiencing uncharacteristic sensations or blank staring, to a full body convulsion, among many other possible symptoms.

Norton Neuroscience Institute Comprehensive Epilepsy Center

Our Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is accredited as the highest -level (Level 4) center by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers, meaning we care for patients with the most complex forms of epilepsy and seizure disorders.

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Epilepsy may have different causes

They include but are not limited to:

  • Genetic factors: Similar to other conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, family history may increase the risk for epilepsy.
  • Head trauma such as a prior concussion
  • Brain tumors
  • Strokes are the leading cause of epilepsy in adults older than age 35.
  • Infections of the brain or the lining around the brain
  • Other genetic and developmental disorders, such as tuberous sclerosis or neurofibromatosis (a genetic disorder that disturbs cell growth in the nervous system)
  • Inflammation: Rarely, our brains can be attacked by their own immune system, causing changes associated with epilepsy.
  • Unknown: In many cases the cause cannot be identified.

The main goal of treatment is “no seizures, no side effects”

The primary treatment for epilepsy is anti-seizure medication, and most people have positive results, allowing them to live seizure-free with minimal or no side effects. Finding the right medication and right dose can be complex and may require months of working with a neurologist. When medications don’t work, surgical procedures may be an option. Advanced treatments, such as surgery, require careful planning with a neurologist at a comprehensive epilepsy center.


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