Epilepsy has various causes

Epilepsy is a term used for a brain disorder that causes seizures. There are many types of epilepsy, as well as different types of seizures. However, if you experience seizures, it does not necessarily mean that you will be diagnosed with epilepsy.

Q. What is coercion?

A. I describe it as a transient clinical sign or symptom that is associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain, almost like a short circuit. The brain is full of neurons and different networks that all work together very organically, and a “short circuit” of electrical activity can spark and present clinical symptoms like seizures. If you have a seizure, it’s important to get evaluated right away.

Q. What is epilepsy?

A. Patients with epilepsy are prone to recurrent seizures throughout life. A single seizure does not mean you have epilepsy. Epilepsy is diagnosed when someone has more than two unexpected seizures separated by more than a 24-hour period.

Q. How long do seizures usually last?

A. Typically, a seizure lasts from seconds to two or three minutes. It can last longer, but one to three minutes is most common.

Q. Do we know what causes epilepsy?

A. Epilepsy has various causes. It is a condition that affects patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. In the elderly population, epilepsy is often caused by a prior stroke. In childhood, genetic-related factors can cause epilepsy, but it’s also common for children to grow out of their seizures.

Q. Are there risk factors for epilepsy?

A. When I’m evaluating a patient who’s had a first-time seizure, I ask about epilepsy risk factors. These include things like a history of pre-term birth, childhood developmental delays, brain infections such as meningitis, a family history of epilepsy, and a history of brain injury and bleeding in the brain.

Q. Are there treatment options for epilepsy?

A. It depends on each patient and what type of epilepsy they have, but we usually prescribe anti-seizure medication to control seizures. Patients who do not tolerate an anti-seizure medication may be evaluated at an epilepsy surgical center and may undergo a pre-surgical evaluation to determine other treatment options. This includes neuropsychological testing and special imaging tests to see if the patient is a surgical candidate. Surgery can potentially cure someone’s epilepsy and preserve their quality of life and memory if they are chosen appropriately and the surgery is performed correctly. Devices such as vagus nerve stimulators can also help reduce seizures, and the ketogenic diet has also been shown to reduce seizures.

Paul Lavin, MD, is a neurohospitalist at MyMichigan Health.

Leave a Comment