What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes a person to have seizures.
1 out of 100 people in the United States have epilepsy. More cases of epilepsy ate seen in children and the elderly then other population groups. The cause of epilepsy may be genetic or because of a head injury, stroke, infection, brain tumor, or toxic reaction to drugs or alcohol. Anything that causes potential damage to brain cells. At this time there is no cure. There are options for treatment such as: medication, surgery, diet, and Vagus Nerve Stimulation.

The word, “Epilepsy” is derived from a Greek word meaning, “a condition of being overcome, seized, or attacked.” People used to believe that the seizure was caused by a demon, and Epilepsy became known as a sacred disease. (Epilepsy is not a disease, but a disorder.) This is the background to the myths and fears that surround Epilepsy; myths that color people’s attitudes and make the goal of a normal life more difficult than it needs to be for people who have Epilepsy. The word, “Epilepsy” means nothing more than the tendency to have seizures.

Common Types of Seizures

Seizures can be either generalized or partialized. Generalized seizures usually consist of an uncontrolled discharge of neurons in the entire brain. Partialized seizures usually consist of an uncontrolled discharge of neurons in an isolated part of the brain. There are over 2o seizure types. Listed below are the types we see with the most frequency.

 Generalized Tonic-Clonic (Grand Mal)

  • Person Falls to the ground and becomes unconscious. Body becomes stiff and starts to shake. Loss of bladder or bowel control is possible. Breathing slows down, skin turns slightly blue. This seizure usually lasts 1-2 minutes. An individual may be disoriented and confused following the seizure .

 Atonic (Drop Attack)

  • Characterized by abrupt loss of muscle tone. May be followed by confusion. Injury is likely.

 Generalized Absence (Petit Mal)

  • A brief lapse of consciousness (10-30 seconds) with staring or eye blinking. This often mistaken for daydreaming or learning disabilities.

Complex Partial

  • The person may be walking around with their eyes open but cannot communicate with you. They might be doing something with their mouth such as licking or chewing. A repetitious act such as picking at their clothing, wondering around or picking at others may occur. This seizure is followed by a period of confusion.

 Simple Partial

  • The person does not lose consciousness and the seizure usually lasts for lass than a minute. It seems to effect sensory sensations or motor movements which is often referred to as an “aura”. An Aura can be a warning that a seizure will occur or it can come by itself.