Epilepsy, also known as a seizure disorder, is a neurological disorder producing brief disturbances in the normal electrical functions of the brain that temporarily affects a person’s consciousness, bodily movements and/or sensations, while creating long term effects on the lifestyle of individuals with epilepsy.
In 2014, the International League Against Epilepsy redefined epilepsy. Per their specifications, someone has epilepsy if one of the following conditions is met;
- At least two unprovoked (or reflex) seizures occurring greater than 24 hours apart
- One unprovoked (or reflex) seizure and a probability of further seizures similar to the general recurrence risk (at least 60%) after two unprovoked seizures, occurring over the next 10 years
- Diagnosis of an epilepsy syndrome
- Epilepsy is considered to be resolved for individuals who had an age-dependent epilepsy syndrome but are now past the applicable age or those who have remained seizure-free for the last 10 years, with no seizure medicines for the last 5 years
For a more complete description, read this.
Although infants do have seizures, you are not necessarily born with epilepsy. Anyone can develop epilepsy at any age whether it is from a head trauma, meningitis, encephalitis, or many other reasons. Even so, 70% of people with epilepsy do not know why they have it.
In some cases, epilepsy can run in families, but just because a family member has epilepsy doesn’t mean you will develop epilepsy. The Epilepsy Phenome-Genome Project has done extensive research recently. Please check here for their list of publications and check your local library to access materials through their databases or Interlibrary Loan for more information.
No cure exists for epilepsy, but research is being done all the time. Although research has not led to a cure, it has led to more knowledge about epilepsy as well as new treatment options. Treatments include medication, the ketogenic diet, brain surgery, the vagus nerve stimulator, and the responsive neuropace stimulator. Even so, only 50% of people get full control of their seizures.
Driving while having epilepsy must be taken on a case-by-case basis. Basically, it depends on whether your seizures are under control and your personal comfort level. Discuss with your doctor and check your California or local DMV rules. And, don’t hesitate to take yourself off the road on occasion for the safety of yourself and others—especially if you forget to take your medication or are dealing with personal seizure triggers.
You can do almost anything you want. Just take precautions and change your lifestyle as needed. For example, initially your doctor will likely take away your driving privileges. If you swim, make sure you have a buddy with you. If you drive or operate hazardous machinery at work, make sure and talk with your supervisor about changing your role at work temporarily while you are in transition. Other than that, just keep living life to its fullest. Don’t let epilepsy stop you!
Having a seizure does not mean you have epilepsy. In fact, 1 in 10 people will have a seizure in their lifetime, but only 1 in 26 will develop epilepsy. Many seizure triggers exist such as a high fever, head trauma, low blood sugar, or encephalitis, but for people with epilepsy, approximately 70% of individuals do not know why they are having their seizures.
When your doctor suspects you have epilepsy, you will generally undergo an EEG, CT or MRI, and blood work. On some occasions, your doctor might order a PET scan. Not only do these tests determine if you have abnormal brain waves indicative to people with epilepsy, but they rule out other medical causes that could be causing seizures.
Medication is the most common treatment for epilepsy. Other treatments include the ketogenic diet, vagus nerve stimulator (VNS), responsive neuropace stimulator (RNS), and brain surgery. Individuals with intractable epilepsy have recently started trying medical marijuana although research still needs to be done for this form of treatment. No one treatment is a cure-all for everyone, and some people might need multiple forms of treatment to gain seizure control. Please discuss your options with your doctor.
No. Never put anything in anyone’s mouth when they have a seizure. You will risk hurting them or yourself more than you will help them.