Epilepsy is an episodic neurological disease. Epileptic attacks, known as seizures recur in episodes but people may feel perfectly fine in between. Seizures are generated by an electric storm in the brain and this storm is caused by an underlying abnormality. Doctor Dora Lozsadi tells us more about diagnosing epilepsy and the treatments involved.
Seizures and diagnosis:
Many people think seizures are dramatic and tonic-clonic in nature, which involve people passing out, jerking and becoming unconscious. However, seizures can be quite subtle and may go unnoticed. It’s important to get seizures looked at for proper diagnosis by a specialist as some seizures may be non-epileptic attacks, related to an irregular heartbeat or fainting. Anyone above the age of 16 should see a neurologist or an adult epilepsy specialist. Younger people will see a paediatric neurologist or epilepsy specialist.
How are epilepsy and epileptic seizures treated?
Some people won’t require treatment, especially if seizures are subtle and if driving isn’t a priority. However, most people will take regular medication. Two-thirds respond well to medication and seizures stop. The important thing is that patients take their medication on a regular basis. If medication is stopped drastically, the seizures can come back, even worse than before.
About 30% of people do not respond to medication and non-medical treatment must be used for the seizures to remit. Some people will be eligible for respective epilepsy surgery, a procedure that removes part of the brain that generates the seizures. This procedure can be risky.
The ketogenic diet, used mostly for children with primary generalised epilepsy types works well to stop attacks.
Another alternative treatment is the implantation of a vagal nerve stimulator (small pacemaker) under the collarbone. This device stimulates nerves and seizures become less frequent. The downside is that some patients don’t tolerate the implant well.
If you or a family member suffer from epilepsy, seek the advice of a neurologist who can properly diagnose the cause of your seizures and point you in the right direction regarding treatment.