What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures. A seizure is a disruption of the electrical communication between neurons. This can affect a variety of mental and physical functions.
It’s also called a seizure disorder. When a person has two or more seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy.
A seizure happens when a brief, strong surge of electrical activity affects part or all of the brain. One in 10 adults will have a seizure sometime during their life and 1 in 26 will be diagnosed with epilepsy during their lifetime, making epilepsy the fourth most common neurological condition.
- Causes of epilepsy vary by age of the person. Some people with no clear cause of epilepsy may have a genetic cause. The cause is unknown for about half of everyone with epilepsy.
- Some people with no known cause of epilepsy may have a genetic form of epilepsy. One or more genes may cause the epilepsy or epilepsy may be caused by the way some genes work in the brain. The relationship between genes and seizures can be very complex and genetic testing is not available yet for many forms of epilepsy.
- About 3 out of 10 people have a change in the structure of their brains that causes the electrical storms of seizures.
- Some young children may be born with a structural change in an area of the brain that gives rise to seizures.
- About 3 out of 10 children with autism spectrum disorder may also have seizures. The exact cause and relationship is still not clear.
- Infections of the brain are also common causes of epilepsy. The initial infections are treated with medication, but the infection can leave scarring on the brain that causes seizures at a later time.
- People of all ages can have head injuries, though severe head injuries happen most often in young adults.
- In middle age, strokes, tumors and injuries are more frequent.
- In people over 65, stroke is the most common cause of new onset seizures. Other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that affect brain function can also cause seizures.
Diagnosing epilepsy and treating seizures successfully requires a team effort between you, your family and your health care team. It is important to consult with a neurologist who is trained to care for people with neurological disorders if you have epilepsy or seizures.
It may be easy to diagnose and control seizures and epilepsy in some people. For others, diagnosis may be difficult. An epileptologist is key to helping people when seizures and epilepsy are difficult to diagnose, or the person is not responding to standard therapy (medication).
Contact us for help finding a neurologist or epileptologist at 303-377-9774 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Early Death and SUDEP
Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy refers to the death of a person with epilepsy without warning and where no cause of death can be found. Recent studies estimate the rate of SUDEP is about 1 per 1,000 people living with epilepsy each year. In people with frequent tonic clonic seizures who are poorly controlled with medications, the rate may be 1 in 100 per year.
While this information may be scary to read, it’s not meant to be. We are committed to helping people be aware of the seriousness of epilepsy and what they can do to prevent complications and death. Sometimes death from epilepsy occurs suddenly and can’t be prevented. In other situations, there may be some things people can do to avoid or modify situations and risks.
People who continue to have seizures are at greater risk of a number of complications, which is why preventing seizures and other problems is so important. The most serious complications are injuries and dying from seizures. This site gives frank information about SUDEP.