What is epilepsy? What are the symptoms and treatments of epilepsy and seizures? And how can AC Cares assist a family dealing with epileptic seizures and symptoms?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder expressed in unpredictable seizures. The definition of epilepsy itself is ‘seizure disorder’. The cause of seizures is due to a disruption of the electrical activity in the brain. Epilepsy can affect people of all ages, genders and races. An epilepsy diagnosis generally requires more than one seizure, as a lone seizure does not mean that a person has epilepsy. For example, a febrile seizure is a seizure in a baby or young child triggered by a fever, and not related to epilepsy.

  • Seizure symptoms can range from a person staring blankly into space for just a few moments, which is called a petit mal seizure, to a grand mal seizure, which can include violent muscle contractions and even the loss of consciousness. General signs of a seizure can include:
  • Jerking or uncontrollable motions of the arms or legs
  • Stiffening of the body
  • Staring into space
  • A sudden loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsive to questions, confused, panicked or fearful without cause
  • Falling suddenly – which could occur from a loss of consciousness or uncontrollable leg motions
  • Sudden loss of bladder control
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A person suddenly chewing, blinking, or other repetitive movements control

There is a wide range of types and intensities of seizures from person to person, and thus epilepsy does not appear in the same way for each person.

When seizures appear to result from abnormal activity in just one area of your brain, they’re called focal seizures, which are called simple partial seizures, or generalized seizures, which appear to involve all areas of the brain. Focal seizures don’t involve the loss of consciousness and may be confused with other neurological disorders, such as migraine, narcolepsy or mental illness.

Generalized seizures can be one of six types: absence seizures (petit mal or short seizures happening many times per day, characterized by staring into space, subtle body movements and a brief loss of awareness), tonic seizures (which affect stiffness in muscles in the back, arms and legs), atonic seizures (also called drop seizures, which cause a loss of muscle control and falling down), clonic seizures (with repeated, jerking movements in the neck, face and arms), myoclonic seizures (sudden brief jerks or twitches in the upper body, arms and legs), tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal seizures, with an abrupt loss of consciousness and body stiffening, twitching and shaking, loss of bladder control and biting of the tongue).

The causes of epilepsy remain unknown in about half the people with the condition while in the other half, the condition may be traced to various factors, including genetic influence, head trauma, brain abnormalities, stroke, prenatal injury, developmental delays, pervasive development disorder, and family history.

Treatments

While there is no cure for epilepsy, there are several epilepsy treatments that can manage the frequency and intensity of seizures and help the person with epilepsy to lead a full life. In some cases, certain triggers may increase the likelihood of epileptic seizures, and learning about such triggers and avoiding them in daily life may help manage the symptoms of epilepsy. Some common triggers include stress, lack of sleep, bright or flashing lights, illness or fever, hunger from skipping meals, or even certain foods, caffeine, alcohol or medications.

Antiseizure medication can be prescribed to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. While antiseizure medication is not a cure for epilepsy – nor can it stop a seizure in progress – taking medications can affect neurotransmitters in a way that reduces the electrical activity that leads to seizures. Some common epilepsy medications include valproic acid, levetiracetam, ethosuximide, lamotrigine, and carbamazepine. Antiseizure medication can have side effects that one must be aware of, including dizziness, difficulty thinking or remembering things, weight loss or gain, mood changes, rashes, or in severe cases, inflammation of the liver and depression.

Along with anti-epileptic/anticonvulsant medications, there are other treatment options for a person suffering from epilepsy. Neuromodulation, or a nerve stimulator can be used to send a signal to the brain cells to make them work the way they are supposed to. A neuromodulation device is placed during surgery under the skin on the chest, and it electrically stimulates the nerve that runs through the neck. When used in epilepsy, a neuromodulation device can reduce epileptic seizures by up to 40%.

Diet can be used to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in people who may not find success or wish to use other therapies. A high fat, low carbohydrate diet – also known as the Ketogenic Diet – has helped control seizures in some people. Often combining such a diet with antiseizure medication has proved effective for controlling epilepsy in people with epilepsy.

Brain surgery is a treatment option for those with epilepsy that can not be controlled with medication, diet, or nerve stimulation. There are two major types of surgery for epilepsy, resective surgery and disconnective surgery. In resective surgery, the part of the brain that causes the seizures is removed, and in disconnective surgery, the surgeon will cut the paths between the nerves in the brain that are involved in your seizures. Surgery is a serious solution, but one which can restore a quality of life for many with limited treatment options.

Families should consult with specialized doctors and medical professionals to chart the best course of action in dealing with epilepsy.

How can we help?

At AC Cares, we can assist the family dealing with epilepsy in many ways. These would include:

Whether you are searching for a qualified doctor, treatment options, or a nutritionist, we have vetted, knowledgeable medical professionals to assist you on your journey.
Dealing with epilepsy can be overwhelming and confusing for families, and we have the latest information on everything from new treatment options to medical trials to help our families in need.
Meeting with others facing similar challenges can provide a lifeline to those who feel alone, and our support groups and moderators are there to walk with you on this journey.
Group seminars and workshops on topics ranging from getting the support needed for your child at school to safety measures in the home provide instruction to prepare you for your role as advocate and caregiver.