Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the world. If you have epilepsy, surges of electrical activity in your brain can cause recurring seizures. We can help you understand everything you need to know about epilepsy and what you can do about it.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes recurring, unprovoked seizures. Your doctor may diagnose you with epilepsy if you have two unprovoked seizures or one unprovoked seizure with a high risk of more. Not all seizures are the result of epilepsy. Seizures may relate to a brain injury or a family trait, but often the cause is completely unknown.
The word “epilepsy” simply means the same thing as “seizure disorders.” It does not state anything about the cause of the person’s seizures or their severity.
may be inappropriate for the time and place, but it is unlikely to cause harm to anyone.
Some facts about epilepsy
- You can’t swallow your tongue during a seizure. It’s physically impossible.
- You should NEVER force something into the mouth of someone having a seizure. Absolutely not! Forcing something into the mouth of someone having a seizure is a good way to chip teeth, cut gums, or even break someone’s jaw.
- DON’T restrain someone having a seizure. Most seizures end in seconds or a few minutes and will end on their own.
- The correct seizure first aid is simple: Stay. Safe. Side. STAY with the person and start timing the seizure. Keep the person SAFE. Turn the person onto their SIDE if they are not awake and aware. Do NOT put anything in their mouth. Do NOT restrain. Stay with them until they are awake and alert after the seizure. Call 911 if the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes; repeated seizures; difficulty breathing; seizure occurs in water; person is injured is injured, pregnant or sick; person does not return to their usual state, first time seizure; or the person asks for medical help.
- Epilepsy is NOT contagious. You simply can’t catch epilepsy from another person.
- Anyone can develop epilepsy. Seizures start for the first time in people over age 65 almost as often as it does in children. Seizures in the elderly are often the after effect of other health problems like stroke and heart disease.
- Most people with epilepsy CAN DO the same things that people without epilepsy can do. However, some people with frequent seizures may not be able to work, drive, or may have problems in other parts of their life.
- People with epilepsy CAN handle jobs with responsibility and stress. People with seizure disorders are found in all walks of life. They may work in business, government, the arts, and all sorts of professions. If stress bothers their seizures, they may need to learn ways to manage stress. But everyone needs to learn how to cope with stress! There may be some types of jobs that people with epilepsy can’t do because of possible safety problems. Otherwise, having epilepsy should not affect the type of job or responsibility that a person has.
- Epilepsy is a chronic medical problem that for many people can be successfully treated. Unfortunately, treatment doesn’t work for everyone. AT LEAST 1 million people in the United States have uncontrolled epilepsy. There is still an urgent need for more research, better treatments, and a cure.
- Epilepsy is NOT rare and can occur as a single condition or may be seen with other conditions affecting the brain, such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injury.
- You CAN die from epilepsy. While death in epilepsy doesn’t happen frequently, epilepsy is a very serious condition and individuals do die from seizures. The most common cause of death is sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). While there is a lot we still don’t know about SUDEP, experts estimate that 1 out of every 1,000 people with epilepsy die from SUDEP each year. People can also die from prolonged seizures (status epilepticus). 1.9% of deaths in people with epilepsy is due to this type of seizure emergency.
- What happens in a seizure may look different from one person to another. However, seizures are usually stereotypic, which means the same things or behaviors tend to occur in a person each time they have a seizure. The seizure behavior may be inappropriate for the time and place, but it is unlikely to cause harm to anyone. (Learn about types of seizures.)
- People with epilepsy are usually not physically limited in what they can do. During and after a seizure, a person may have trouble moving or doing their usual activity. Some people may have trouble with physical abilities due to other neurological problems. Aside from these problems, a person who is not having a seizure is usually not limited in what they can do physically.
There are many possible causes of epilepsy, including genetics, brain trauma, autoimmune disorders, metabolic issues, infections, and brain damage from illness or injury, or some combination of these In some cases, there may be no detectable cause for epilepsy. Anyone can have a seizure under certain circumstances, such as a high fever, low blood sugar, alcohol or drug withdrawal, or a brain concussion. However, when a person has two or more recurrent unprovoked seizures, he or she is considered to have epilepsy
Solutions for epilepsy
There are several treatment options available for epilepsy, and the choice of treatment depends on the individual’s specific needs and circumstances. Some of the most common treatments include:
Anti-seizure medications: These drugs help control seizures in about 60% to 70% of people with epilepsy. The choice of medication depends on factors such as the type of seizures, the patient’s overall health, and the potential side effects of the medication
Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be recommended to remove abnormal tissue or cut fiber bundles that connect areas of the brain. This can help control seizures in up to 76% of patients after resection
Dietary therapies: Special diets, such as the ketogenic diet, modified Atkins diet, low glycemic diet, and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) diet, can help control seizures in some people with epilepsy
Deep brain stimulation: This procedure involves the implantation of a small electrical device inside the body to help control seizures.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation: This non-invasive procedure uses magnetic fields to stimulate the brain and help control seizures.
Vagus electrical brain stimulation: This treatment involves the use of electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve to help control seizures.
It is essential to work closely with healthcare professionals to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for each individual with epilepsy. Regular follow-up appointments and monitoring are crucial to ensure the effectiveness of the chosen treatment and to make any necessary adjustments