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Understanding Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a disorder affecting the electrical system of the brain. When these electrical signals go awry, it trigger abrupt changes in the person’s behavior, movement or awareness; this is what is known as seizures. People experiencing seizures twice or more in a day without known triggers are deemed to have epilepsy.

Having sudden, uncontrolled movements are a common symptom of epilepsy. Serious injuries to the brain, stroke or deprivation of oxygen to the brain are the common causes of epilepsy.

Epilepsy is not uncommon in children. But in most of these cases, children outgrow them. With the help of medication, many of them are able to stop the seizures. Also not uncommon is epilepsy among pregnant women. Did you know 90 percent of infants of epileptic women are healthy? For women planning to bear a child, it is important, however, to speak with the doctor first. There are anti-seizure medications that pose health risks for infants.

There are generally two ways to diagnose epilepsy; first is through an EEG. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a painless procedure that checks on the electrical activity of the brain. Doctors use this to predict the pattern or likelihood of seizures as well as determine the particular areas of the brain that are affected. The second method of diagnosis involves a brain scan. Using detailed images of the brain, doctors are able to create individualized treatments for epilepsy patients.

There are four usual treatments for epilepsy: medication, ketogenic diet, VNS and surgery. Medication is commonly prescribed and is deemed effective, having a success rate with about two-thirds of patients becoming seizure-free as a result.

But when medication fails, doctors may recommend a special ketogenic diet for the patient. This eating plan is a low-carb, high-fat diet. More than half of children who followed this plan experienced a decrease in seizure frequency by at least 50 percent.

VNS, or vagus nerve stimulation, is known as a pacemaker for the brain. This option is recommended for people whose symptoms don’t respond well to medication. If all else fails, surgery is the last resort. It involves taking out the area of the brain that is responsible for the seizures.

Epilepsy is a potentially dangerous condition. Without warning, a seizure can strike; a person could be driving or under hazardous conditions when the uncontrolled movements or loss of consciousness occur. As a precaution, it is highly advisable for patients to refrain from partaking in any risky activity.

But that is not to say people with epilepsy can no longer enjoy a full, happy life. Getting in touch with a specialist can improve the symptoms. For a listing of reliable neurologists, check out the roll of doctors compiled by American Academy of Neurology and the Epilepsy Foundation.

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