A seizure is an episode of involuntary behavior caused by abnormal electrical activity of the brain. It is important to understand that not all seizures are fall-down, jerking episodes. Epilepsy occurs when someone has recurring seizures. Seizures can be caused by head injuries, brain infections, brain tumors, disorders that occur during fetal development and many other conditions/diseases. For many people who experience seizures, however, a specific cause cannot be determined.
There are many types of seizures, and they can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Symptoms vary by individual and can include:
Accurate diagnosis of seizures by a neurologist is essential. The neurologist will evaluate the patient by taking a thorough medical history and performing a neurological examination. Further testing such as EEG (electroencephalograph)/ video EEG and imaging may be performed.
Seizures can be triggered by certain factors such as stress, lack of sleep, hormone changes, medications and bright flashing lights. It is important for patients to discuss any triggers related to their own seizures when they meet with their neurologist. Women who have epilepsy should discuss their condition with a physician before they plan to become pregnant.
There are a wide variety anti-epileptic medications available that can control or reduce the number of seizures for most people. The type of medication will depend on various factors including the patient’s age, the type of seizure they are having and any other underlying medical conditions that they have. Vagus Nerve Stimulators (known as VNS) and surgery are also treatment options that are used for some patients.