Epilepsy Know How


It has been well established that the amount of knowledge people with epilepsy have about their condition the better they manage their daily lives with epilepsy in the background.

  • In 60% to 70% of people with epilepsy no clear cause can be found for their seizures.
  • You can not “catch” epilepsy from another person.
  • Although seizures start in the brain, it is not a mental illness.
  • Seizures can vary from very brief events to much more severe events lasting 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Everyone has a seizure threshold and seizures can be caused by a wide range of things such as lack of sleep, drugs or too much alcohol.
  • This is the most common test to help diagnose epilepsy.
  • While an abnormal E.E.G. is usually an indication that you have epilepsy, some people, have abnormal E.E.Gs but do not have epilepsy.
  • This test involves attaching a series of electrodes to the scalp to detect electrical activity from the brain.
  • About 60 % of seizures ( so called partial seizures) don’t involve people losing consciousness at all.
  • Temporary lack of oxygen most commonly can result in fainting which can sometimes be confused with epilepsy.
  • Some people with epilepsy (usually children) have so called absence seizures.
  • “Partial seizures” may affect only a specific area, while “generalised seizures” affect both sides of the brain.
  • Some people with a high seizure “threshold” may not develop epilepsy even after fairly major brain damage, while someone with a low threshold may develop seizures after minor damage.
  • Other tests may be necessary to rule out a diagnosis. In some cases people with epilepsy may have a normal E.E.G.
  • About 70 % of people with epilepsy have their seizures well controlled by their anti-epileptic drugs.
  • About half those people who’s seizures are well controlled with medication are eventually able to stop medication successfully.
  • With anti-epileptic medication higher doses usually means more side effects.
  • Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain.
  • In order for it to work properly it is essential to keep the level of anti-epileptic medication in your body at a steady level
  • While you should make every effort to take your medication at the correct time, it is usually OK to take two doses if you forget a dose. However, it is best to check with your doctor or nurse first.
  • Some but not all people with epilepsy get a so called “aura” before a seizure. Common auras are tingling sensations on the skin, stomach churning or funny tastes or smells.
  • Regular blood monitoring may be required to get the correct dose. However blood monitoring isn’t useful for most anti-epileptic drugs.
  • A combination of drugs increase the possibility of side effects.
  • Between 70 % and 80 % of people with epilepsy have their seizures well controlled within months of starting medication.
  • It is important not to change your medication without checking with your doctor as this may not help your epilepsy and may cause other problems.
  • Anti-epileptic medication is designed to control seizures rather than cure the cause of seizures.
  • Some people with epilepsy are not prescribed medication if either their seizures are very mild, or if medication causes health problems. also some people are able to stop medication Successfully with their doctors’ help.
  • A small number of people are able to prevent a seizure from happening, or “fight off” a seizure once it has started using a number of different psychological techniques which focus on changing thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
  • Anti-epileptic medication Is designed to control seizures rather than cure the cause of seizures. However, If your seizures have been well controlled for a number of years, you may wish to discuss the possibility of reducing or stopping your medication.
  • For a small number of people whose seizures are not well controlled by medication, brain surgery may help reduce or stop seizures.
  • Breast feeding is safe for almost all mothers as only a very small amount of anti-epileptic medication is passed to babies in the milk. You should discuss this with your doctor.
  • Not only may more seizures be more likely when taking alcohol but anti-epileptic drugs do not react well with alcohol and may make the effects of alcohol more marked.
  • Most seizures do not result in any significant change to the brain.
  • Many people with epilepsy report that they tend to have more seizures when they are under stress.

Epilepsy is a complex neurological condition that is responsible for considerable morbidity and mortality. More than 2 million people in the USA have epilepsy and, each year, 150,000 people are newly diagnosed as having epilepsy, with the cumulative lifetime incidence approaching 3%. The incidence is highest during the first year of life and in elderly individuals. Approximately 70% of people with epilepsy receive successful treatment. However, in approximately 30% of patients, seizures persist despite the choice of an appropriate anti- epileptic drug (AED). Such ‘pharmaco-resistance’, although lacking a precise definition, is defined by most clinicians as an epilepsy syndrome that is not controlled by two to three appropriate AEDs. Drug therapy is the mainstay of initial treatment for epilepsy and many individuals require long-term treatment with AEDs. Therefore, the efficacy I safety and tolerability of drug therapy are major considerations in the choice of appropriate treatment.

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