What is Epilepsy?

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  • Written By: Stefanie Spikell
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2014
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Epilepsy is a disease in which the affected person tends to have repeated seizures that start in the brain. Our brains function as our body's message center, and if there is a break in some or all of the brain functioning, a seizure can occur. The result of a seizure is that a person often collapses or faints. Sometimes, though, a person does not fall, but just "loses" time, unaware that they are being affected by a seizure.

Since epilepsy actually starts inside the brain, it is considered to be a neurological condition. A person might only have one seizure in their whole lifetime, or they may have repeated seizures. Only people with repeated seizures are referred to as epileptic. Anyone can have epilepsy and it is not certain just why it occurs. What is known about the disease is that it affects people of all ages, races, and economic income.

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The important fact to remember is that a person's "seizure threshold" plays a key role in the disease. Each of us has an individual level of resistance, or tolerance, to seizures. This threshold is part of everyone's genetics and the chance for developing epilepsy is dependent upon the seizure threshold of your parents. People with lower seizure thresholds are more likely to have seizures than those with high thresholds. Someone with a high threshold is more likely to have seizures unrelated to epilepsy, perhaps as a result of an environmental incident, such as a head injury. This person would not be considered an epileptic and is unlikely to have had the seizure due to a genetic predisposition.

There are three types of epilepsy: Symptomatic epilepsy occurs when there is a known cause such as a head injury, brain infection, stroke or because of scar tissue on the brain.

Idiopathic epilepsy shows no clear cause for the seizures and the affected person usually does not have other disabilities. This form is usually started from a low seizure threshold and is very treatable.

Cryptogenic epilepsy is diagnosed when either of the other two forms is not definitively diagnosed and it is usually believed that a physical reason is the cause. Doctors will generally keep exploring until they find the cause for the seizures.

The good news for epilepsy sufferers is that, with the appropriate treatment, up to 80% of people become seizure free.

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Discuss this Article

anon183988
Post 5

I have had epilepsy since I was 11 and I'm now 22.

I've been up and down on dosages of medication and they've introduced another one to the list (even though I've only got the absences -Complex Partial Seizure, and still get the occasional fit), but I'm fed up with change. I've just said 'that'll do' to what I'm on now.

I've recently noticed I've been yawning beyond belief lately and wondered if anyone knew the connection between the two? - Christie

anon61496
Post 4

I have had epilepsy (diagnosed) since six, likely having minor seizures before this.

I had a loss of oxygen at birth causing scar tissue on the brain, and my mother said before my first Tonic Clonic seizure (gran mal) I used to stare off in a trance.

I would say definitely the two may be well connected the first being an aura of the main seizure coming on.

anon59160
Post 3

I am a epileptic and have been since i was a year and a half old is when i was diagnosed with it. I am now 31 and have been on medicine for it since i was two.The

medicine that the doctors found that has mainly worked for my type of seizures is Zarontin. Joanne, your son/daughter may have epilepsy or something that is related to it.

at your child's next doctor visit, you may want to ask the doctor to do a ct scan or an eeg to make sure it isn't something more serious.

hope things work out for you. Kathy

Reb7
Post 2

I have had epilepsy since I was 3. I have since found that food allergies trigger my seizures. I do not know if others with epilepsy have food allergies, which they are unaware of, that are triggering their seizures. I have also found that a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, grains and only small portions of meat and fat help as well.

joanne
Post 1

my one year old often goes into a trance like state which lasts only a minit at most he has had a fit once before with abcence of jerking and shaking could the 2 be conected

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