While epilepsy is more commonly used as a general term for conditions with recurring seizures, it is medically defined as a disorder involving two or more seizure attacks unrelated to other medical conditions. Seizures take place when there is an abnormal surge of electrical activity in the brain, affecting the person’s physical and mental activities for the duration of the episode. Having a seizure does not mean that you also have epilepsy if the seizure is the result of other medical conditions.
The cause of epilepsy is often unknown, and is usually credited to hereditary and genetic factors. Some medical conditions that may cause recurring seizures include:
Symptoms for seizures can vary from person to person. Sometimes, a seizure may take place without any obvious or known symptoms. Some signs that may indicate a seizure include:
If someone next to you is displaying such symptoms, that individual may be experiencing a seizure. Be sure to take the appropriate first aid steps and call for medical help.
First, your healthcare provider will run a series of tests to determine the cause of epilepsy. If it is due to other underlying medical conditions, he or she may try to treat it first. Treatment and management may vary from person to person.
Sometimes, seizures may stop on their own. Over 50% of affected infants and children outgrow epilepsy when they reach adulthood. For those who do not or are diagnosed later in life, antiepileptic or anti-seizure prescription medications are the most common way for effective management. Often times, individuals who are seizure-free for 5 years gradually stop taking medication under the supervision of his or her doctor. There are many different types of drug combination therapy for seizures, so it may take some time to find the right fit.
If medication is ineffective, other alternative treatments include surgery or nerve stimulation therapy, sometimes in combination with drugs. Be sure to consult your doctor for the most effective epileptic management.
When a person undergoes a seizure or an epileptic attack, it is important to call 911 immediately and take actions to keep the affected individual safe until medical personnel arrive. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on how to respond appropriately while waiting for medical help to respond:
Sometimes, a seizure can take a more passive form and can result in involuntary facial movements, blank staring, or loss of awareness instead. Here are some tips on how to handle the situation: