Seziure Disorders and Epilepsy: Part 1

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The Merck Manual provides helpful and detailed information about these conditions. In seizure disorders, the normal electrical activity of the brain is periodically disturbed, resulting in some degree of temporary brain dysfunction. In many persons, there are premonitory cues or auras which alert the person to an impending seizure. Some seizures (grand mal) result in uncontrollable shaking and a loss of consciousness, but many times people simply stop moving and become unaware of their environment.

Although physicians can often speculate closely the reason for the seizure based on symptoms, blood test and an electroencephalogram (EEG), which records brains activity, can identify the specific cause. Sometimes medications are needed, and these can often control the seizures. However, for many other people, managing seizure disorders is much more complicated, and the condition may seriously disrupt their own life and their family’s.

There are two basic types of seizures, the Merck Manual indicates. One type is referred to as “epileptic”—these seizures may have no apparent cause or trigger and may occur repeatedly. “Nonepileptic seizures may be triggered by another condition that irritates the brain. In children, a fever can trigger a nonepileptic seizure.

During their lifetime, approximately 2 percent of persons have seizures. For about two-thirds of these persons, it is their only experience of a seizure. For the other third, managing recurrent seizures will become part of their life.

What causes seizures in different age groups? Before age two, causes may include highly abnormal levels of sugar, calcium, magnesium, or Vitamin B6. Other conditions that can trigger seizures include birth defects, injuries at birth, or hereditary metabolic disorders or brain disorders. Between ages 2-14, the cause is often unknown—and this fact is important for the public to know as it underscores the important need for research. For adults, head injuries, strokes, and tumors can cause a seizure, as can alcohol withdrawal. Even so, in about one-half of adults with seizures, the cause remains unknown. Again, this strongly suggests a great need for the public and the medical community to initiate and support research to learn more about these idiopathic (i.e. unknown origin) seizures.

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