Diagnosing epilepsy and the different ways to treat it

Written by: Dr Dora Lozsadi
Edited by: Lisa Heffernan

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.

By Dr Dora Lozsadi

Dr Dora Lozsadi is a an accomplished neurologist based at the Parkside Hospital in Wimbledon, London. She specialises in epilepsy, the management of epilepsy and the assessment of transient loss of consciousness. Currently, she is dedicated to grant-awarded research for Epilepsy Research UK on the study of brain activity using electrodes placed in the nose.

Dr Lozsadi gained her specialist training at the Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Liverpool and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (UCL), London. Prior to this, Dr Lozsadi was awarded her DPhil degree at the University of Oxford. She is currently an honorary senior lecturer for St George's, University of London.

At the core of Dr Lozsadi's approach is displacing the stigma surrounding neurological conditions and giving every patient treatment and care without prejudice. She has been a consultant neurologist for over ten years.

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