All About Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder affecting over 65,000 people in Cleveland and Northeastern Ohio, over 3.4 million people in the United States, and over 65 million people world wide. Epilepsy affects more people than Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy and Parkinson’s Disease combined. Seizures occur when abnormal nerve cell activity changes or interrupts the way the body functions.
In 2013, the International League Against Epilepsy updated the definition of epilepsy, which can be read below or found here:
Epilepsy is a disease of the brain defined by any of the following conditions:
1. At least two unprovoked seizures occurring more than 24 hours apart.
2. One unprovoked seizure and a probability of further seizures similar to the general recurrence risk after two unprovoked seizures (approximately 75% or more).
3. At least two seizures in a setting of reflex epilepsy.
Epilepsy is considered to be no longer present for individuals who had an age-dependent epilepsy syndrome but are now past the applicable age or those who have remained seizure-free for at least 10 years off anti-seizure medicines, provided that there are no known risk factors associated with a high probability (>75%) of future seizures.
Seizures and epilepsy are not the same. An epileptic seizure is a transient occurrence of signs and/or symptoms due to abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain. Epilepsy is a disease characterized by an enduring predisposition to generate epileptic seizures and by the neurobiological, cognitive, psychological, and social consequences of this condition.
Translation: a seizure is an event and epilepsy is the disease involving recurrent unprovoked seizures.
Seizures vary from person to person. They can range from someone simply staring into space, or clenching their fist to becoming unconscious, falling down and having their entire body shake violently.
Anyone who is normally healthy can experience a single seizure in their lifetime. This seizure usually takes place once and lasts for less than three minutes. They have no seizures after that. If you do experience a seizure, you need to be examined by a doctor.
A person is diagnosed with epilepsy by a neurologist once they have experienced two or more seizures. They make this diagnosis after assessing the patients medical history and family history.
Neurologists and epileptologists may recommend a variety of tests to diagnose epilepsy including:
– a complete physical and neurological exam.
– an MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging, which takes pictures of your brain to help discover if there is any scar tissue or other abnormalities that might be causing seizures.
– a routine or prolonged EEG – Electroencephalography, which records the electrical activity in your brain. Doctors measure the number of brain waves per second and if abnormal results occur, can identify when and where in the brain a seizure occurred. Routine EEG’s take approximately 30 minutes, while a prolonged EEG may require a patient to stay in the hospital while being monitored for a few days or up to a week.
– Blood tests to rule out other illnesses and to measure red and white blood cell counts, blood sugar, calcium and electrolyte levels; and to evaluate liver and kidney function. Information used from the following resources:
Empowering Epilepsy’s goal is to bring people who experience epilepsy together to meet others just like them, to learn more about epilepsy, and discover ways to help manage their seizures.
To learn more about epilepsy, check out our Epilepsy Resources page here and find a complete list of books about epilepsy, plus other information on ways to live well with epilepsy. http://empoweringepilepsy.org/cleveland-ohio-epilepsy-resources/