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Epilepsy

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder and affects people of all ages. Many individuals with epilepsy can have different types of seizures and other neurological problems. Seizures can also come in a variety of forms. Sometimes a person’s arms and legs will twitch, while others with epilepsy might stare blankly for a few seconds during a seizure or find that their entire body shakes. These seizures are caused by electrical activity that suddenly surges to the brain.

Who is at risk for developing epilepsy?

About 1 in 26 people are diagnosed with epilepsy. While this disorder can occur at any time during a person’s life, it is most common in young children and older adults. Children can inherit epilepsy from their parents (although rare) or can have a risk factor that makes them more susceptible to the disorder.

Some of these risk factors include:

  • Premature birth
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Autism
  • Brain tumors
  • Serious brain injuries

Signs and symptoms of epilepsy:

A seizure can affect any process that the brain controls. While symptoms can vary by individual, most people who have epilepsy will experience similar symptoms each time they have a seizure.

Some of these symptoms include:

  • A feeling of confusion
  • Losing consciousness
  • Uncontrollable movements of a person’s limbs
  • Staring spells

These signs and symptoms can often be very scary for a person who is having a seizure and for those watching. It is important to seek medical help right away if a person is having a seizure for the first time, the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, the person develops a fever or experiences another seizure immediately after the first seizure. An individual can also hurt himself/herself during a seizure by falling down and bumping his/her head or injuring another part of the body. If you are unsure whether medical attention is needed, it is always advised to seek support from a doctor or nurse to ensure the person’s safety. It is also important to note that, despite popular belief, a person having a seizure should never be restrained, and nothing should be placed inside of his/her mouth.

Diagnosis of epilepsy:

It is important to consult with a doctor about what could have caused the seizure to happen. In order to make an epilepsy diagnosis, the doctor will most likely perform certain tests to figure out the cause of the seizures.

These tests can include, but are not limited to:

  • Blood tests
  • Neurological examinations
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Functional MRI (fMRI)

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with epilepsy, educating yourself and others around you is key to managing the condition and staying healthy. Taking prescribed medication correctly, exercising regularly, getting adequate rest and managing stress can help to control the disorder and keep seizures at bay. Remember, an epilepsy diagnosis does not define the person; individuals with the disorder can and do lead productive, happy lives!

If you have a child who was diagnosed with epilepsy, how have you helped prepare him/her for managing the disorder?

References

http://kidshealth.org/kid/health_problems/brain/epilepsy.html#

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/epilepsy/home/ovc-20117206

http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/epilepsy-101/what-are-risk-factors

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