Symptoms and diagnosis
Epilepsy is a central nervous system (neurological) disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness.
Anyone can develop epilepsy. Epilepsy affects both males and females of all races, ethnic backgrounds and ages.
Seizure symptoms can vary widely. Some people with epilepsy simply stare blankly for a few seconds during a seizure, while others repeatedly twitch their arms or legs. Having a single seizure doesn’t mean you have epilepsy. At least two unprovoked seizures are generally required for an epilepsy diagnosis.
Treatment with medications or sometimes surgery can control seizures for the majority of people with epilepsy. Some people require lifelong treatment to control seizures, but for others, the seizures eventually go away. Some children with epilepsy may outgrow the condition with age.
Because epilepsy is caused by abnormal activity in the brain, seizures can affect any process your brain coordinates. Seizure signs and symptoms may include:
Symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure. In most cases, a person with epilepsy will tend to have the same type of seizure each time, so the symptoms will be similar from episode to episode.
Doctors generally classify seizures as either focal or generalized, based on how the abnormal brain activity begins.
When seizures appear to result from abnormal activity in just one area of your brain, they’re called focal (partial) seizures. These seizures fall into two categories:
Symptoms of focal seizures may be confused with other neurological disorders, such as migraine, narcolepsy or mental illness. A thorough examination and testing are needed to distinguish epilepsy from other disorders.
Seizures that appear to involve all areas of the brain are called generalized seizures. Six types of generalized seizures exist.
“You can’t catch Epilepsy from another person. However, anyone can develop epilepsy. Elderly people over the age of 65 often begin having seizures for the first time as they age. There is also no cure for epilepsy.”
In addition to conducting a physical examination, a physician will typically perform an EEG (electroencephalogram) to check the electrical activity of the brain. Imaging tests may also be performed to find the cause and location of foci causing seizures. These include:
Epilepsy is a term that encompasses recurring seizures. Seizures can be different, but all of them include abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This electrical activity changes body movements. Groups of cells and neurons in the brain produce impulses that control body movements, thoughtsand sensations. When these impulses occur excessively, a seizure is produced. When someone has recurring seizures, more than likely they will have the same type of seizure each time. Seizures are stereotypic. An epilepsy diagnosis comes when a person has had two seizures that are unrelated to any other condition.