Information On Epilepsy And Seizures

Information on epilepsy & seizures. What is it caused by, the different types of, and how to treat it.

It is hard for many of us to realize just how common epilepsy is. This is due, in part, to the fact that in most cases it is a very controlled condition. The fact is, though, that there are around two million people in America alone that are affected.

Epilepsy itself is not a disease, but a symptom of a neurologic disorder. This is a disorder which affects the brain and shows itself in the way of seizures. Most people are not born with epilepsy, and in most cases it is a very treatable condition.

Seizures can hit anyone under certain conditions. Some examples of this would be, an infection of the brain or an allergic reaction to a drug. It is a fact that seizures are more common among males, people under twenty years of age and seniors. Most (in fact-over half) have their first seizure before the age of fifteen.

Epilepsy can best be described as what happens when the cells of the brain misfire. A seizure happens when a large group of neurons in the brain misfire or short circut, if you will. This can happen for many different reasons. It can sometimes be caused by stress, not eating correctly, or even lack of sleep. Other times it can be due to injuries or complications at birth. During these times the hurt areas of the brain interrupt the natural flow of things.

Remember all the nerves in our bodies are connected in one way or another. During a seizure the brain/nervous system signals get confused and strange things begin to happen. The brain no longer understands what the eyes are seeing. Leg muscles can become weak. Muscle tone is lost and people can fall. (This tells us why people stare, jerk, or fall during a seizure.)

Epilepsy has many different causes. That is why it can be so difficult to figure out. In almost 60% of all cases--no know reason is ever found. These cases are referred to as idiopathic or crypotgenic epilepsy. This type of epilepsy would be what is called hereditary. It is usually found early in life. (Two of my sons were diagnosed at age two.) This is a rare type of epilepsy as most often it is not gene related. Infact, when both parents posses the gene there is only a 12% chance and that number drops if only one parent carries the gene.

There are several other reasons why a child might have epilepsy. The baby may have had an infection before birth, there could have been an injury to the baby, or at some point he/she could have been deprived of oxygen. After they are born the risks continue. The risks for young children being injured or having serious infection is much greater than an adults. Approximately 30% of all people who will ever get epilepsy will have developed it by age five.

Older children and adults are more likely to get this condition from an injury of some sort. This type of epilepsy is known as syptomatic. These are most likely to be caused by automobile accidents, strokes, or brain hemorrhages.

Any disease of the central nervous system or anything that would cause a lack of blood flow to the brain could also cause a seizure. Some examples of this would be: Encephalitis and meningites.

The first, most important step in the diagnosis step is the doctors appointment. Here is where they will try and get a grip on your medical history. There are several questions that your doctor may ask of you. These are just a few to help you get familiar with them:

1.) When did you have your first seizure?

2.) Did it happen after a fall?

3.) Were you tired or upset at the time?

4.) Have you started or stoped any medications recently?

5.) Did you feel strange or different in any way before the seizure began.

6.) How long did it last?(This is a big one.)

7.) How did you feel after the seizure?

8.) Did the seizures come in groups or were they one at a time?

***These are by no means all that you would be asked, it is just a sample of what some of the questions are.***

It would not hurt to bring someone along who has witnessed the event to help you answer the questions. Keeping a journal of events and seizures is also a wonderful idea.

After this is all over, if the doctor feels it is necessary you would be sent to the hospital for a few tests. Some of the most common that are used today are the electoencephalograph(EEG) and the Computerized axial tomograph(CAT) scan.

The EEG measures the electric activity in the brain. This is done by placing tiny electrodes to the scalp. The patient is asked to lay down and then may be asked to do several other things.

(Breath quickly, look at some flashing lights, sleep) This helps the doctors to monitor the brain patterns.

The CAT scan uses computers to make images of the brain. It can help the doctors to look at the brain from many different positions. It also gives them a three dimensional view of the brain.

Now, with all of that technical stuff out of the way, how does it affect my children?

I have one son who is now seventeen. He should be like most boys his age and out driving a car and having fun. The law states that you must go five years seizure free before you can obtain a drivers licence. This is a good law and I agree with it whole hearted. My son, however, is at least a year away from getting his licence. This is difficult for him and even harder for us to have to keep explaining.

When he was younger, the slightest bump to the head would cause seizures that would last for hours. Because of this he was made to wear a helmet to school. The glares and the talk from even adults was enough to make me cry. Can you imagine how he felt. This child was lucky. We knew what caused his seizures and what to avoid so he would not have them.

My second son is not near as lucky. He has uncontrolled seizures and no know reason why he is having them. His are a little more difficult to even watch. They start out with the brain sending images to his little eyes that are not real. He will see bugs, ghosts, people, coming at him. Books begin to fly. Pictures on the wall move. The room spins out of control. Just when you think it could not get any worse, he starts to convulse and then passes out. When this happens to him in school, children flee and even teachers become scared. There is a medication that can be given when the symptoms first begin that can help to stop the rest of what is coming. When he is away from home, people become so upset and confused that they do not give it in time.

When all is over, my son sleeps anywhere from twenty-four hours to three days. Yes, that means with no waking up for foods or anything. We try to awake him, but the only thing we are ever re-assured of is that he is breathing. This, of course means that we must figure out ways to get liquids and nurishment into him. This is usually done through a feeding tube or an I.V.

My son has home care and therapy weekly. He is limited in the amounts of time he can spend at school. Last year he had to quit all together and be taught at home. Friends are far and few between. Who wants to play with someone who is different?

I love my children very much. Life is difficult for them. It does not need to be as hard as it is though. Please know that when my sons are not having seizures, they are the same as you and I. The love to laugh, play, learn, drive, do anything any other child might want to do.

In closing I would just like to say: If you see a person having a seizure, do not run away and be afraid. They are just like us, only they have an illness. Talk to them and love them. Chances are that they need a friend. Always remember that you are but a bump on the head away from needing a friend yourself.

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