A Guide to Seizures, Treatment and Living Well
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, which are sudden, uncontrolled electrical disturbances in the brain. More than 3 million people in the United States, both young and old, have epilepsy.
During a seizure, a person may lose control and awareness of their body. Once the seizure is over, it may take minutes to hours to recover and feel completely normal again.
While seizures are the main symptom, experiencing a seizure may not mean you have epilepsy. For this reason, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider if you experience any seizure.
A person can be born with epilepsy or acquire it as a result of another condition, including:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Bleeding in the brain
- Infections (meningitis, HIV or encephalitis)
Symptoms and Triggers of Epilepsy
A person with epilepsy may experience the following during a seizure:
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
- Muscle spasms
- Stiffening of the body
- Staring spells
- Temporary paralysis
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
After a seizure, a person may find themselves with pins and needles, a headache, extreme fatigue, difficulty seeing or speaking, or body aches. They also might not remember the seizure, which can leave them feeling confused.
Seizure often have triggers, or events that precede them. Some common triggers include stress or anxiety, drinking alcohol, hormonal changes, lack of sleep, visual stimulation (like strobe lights), and eating poorly.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you experience these symptoms, you need to consult with a healthcare provider. A physician will usually perform a series of tests, including an EEG (a test to measure brain waves), to diagnose epilepsy. Family medical history, blood tests and neurological testing are considered, too.
Treatment for epilepsy can include:
Medication: Many people with epilepsy can control seizures with prescription drugs.
Surgery: In cases where medication is not effective, surgery to remove the part of the brain causing the seizures might be an option.
Lifestyle changes: Eating well, getting enough sleep and managing stress can also make a difference.
Living with epilepsy might require some adjustments, but it doesn't mean giving up on a full and rewarding life. Here's how to lessen its impact:
Educate yourself. Get to know the ins and outs of your condition.
Take prescribed medication. Remember to stay on schedule with your prescriptions.
Maintain a balanced diet and exercise. Aim to eat more fruits and vegetables and move every day.
Keep an open dialogue with your doctor. Let them know of any changes in your routine or symptoms and ask before starting any supplements.
Stay well-rested. Try to get a full eight hours a night.
Record your seizures to keep track of when they happen. You may be able to discover patterns or triggers.