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What Is Epilepsy?

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1 What Is Epilepsy? on Sun Sep 27, 2009 6:55 pm


Epilepsy is a neurological condition, which affects the nervous system. Epilepsy is also known as a seizure disorder. It is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures that were not caused by some known medical condition like alcohol withdrawal or extremely low blood sugar. Sometimes, according to the International League Against Epilepsy, epilepsy can be diagnosed after one seizure, if a person has a condition that places them at high risk for having another.

The seizures in epilepsy may be related to a brain injury or a family tendency, but most of the time the cause is unknown. The word "epilepsy" does not indicate anything about the cause of the person's seizures, what type they are, or how severe they are.

Up to 5% of the world’s population may have a single seizure at some time in their lives.

It is likely that around 60 million people in the world have epilepsy at any one time.

Children and adolescents are more likely to have epilepsy of unknown or genetic origin than adults.

Epilepsy can start at any age.

Recent studies show that seizures in up to 70% of children and adults with newly diagnosed epilepsy can be controlled with medications; however, many of these people experience treatment-related side effects.

Seizures in up to 30% of people with epilepsy do not respond to available medications.

Types Of Epilepsy

When a disorder is defined by a characteristic group of features that usually occur together, it is called a syndrome. These features may include symptoms, which are problems that the patient will notice. They also may include signs, which are things that the doctor will find during the examination or with laboratory tests. Doctors and other health care professionals often use syndromes to describe a patient's epilepsy.

Epilepsy syndromes are defined by a cluster of features. These features may include:

  • The type or types of seizures

  • The age at which the seizures begin

  • The causes of the seizures

  • Whether the seizures are inherited

  • The part of the brain involved

  • Factors that provoke seizures

  • How severe and how frequent the seizures are

  • A pattern of seizures by time of day

  • Certain patterns on the EEG, during seizures and between seizures

  • Other disorders in addition to seizures

  • The prospects for recovery or worsening

Not every syndrome will be defined by all these features, but most syndromes will be defined by a number of them. Classifying a patient's epilepsy as belonging to a certain syndrome often provides information on what medications or other treatments will be most helpful. It also may help the doctor to predict whether the seizures will go into remission (lessen or disappear).

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