What is epilepsy? Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes recurrent disabling episodes where there is abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Epilepsy is also known as a seizure disorder. It is diagnosed after a person has had a seizure, followed by a thorough neurologic workup that includes brain imaging, lab testing, an EEG (which measures brainwaves), and a consultation with a neurologist.
Who is Affected by Epilepsy?
- 65 million: Number of people around the world who have epilepsy.
- Over 2 million: Number of people in the United States who have epilepsy.
- 1 in 26 people in the United States will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime.
- Between 4 and 10 out of 1,000: Number of people on earth who live with active seizures at any one time.
- 150,000: Number of new cases of epilepsy in the United States each year (source epilepsy.com)
How is Epilepsy Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of epilepsy can sometimes be challenging. There are conditions that mimic epileptic seizures, such as medical or psychiatric causes. In addition, accurate diagnosis is very important in epilepsy. It is also important to understand what kind of epilepsy a patient has, as this affects treatment as well as prognosis (the patient’s long term health outcome).
Our clinic and associated hospitals can provide high quality EEG testing including outpatient EEGs, home EEGs, and inpatient EEG with video. An EEG is a measurement of the continuous brain-wave patterns, or electrical activity of the brain. Small metal discs called electrodes are positioned in a standardized pattern on the scalp to record brain-wave patterns. The resulting tracing summarizes the activity of millions of individual neurons. The voltage and frequency is interpreted by a Neurologist and is useful for assessing brain death, seizure activity, and for determining stages of sleep.
How is Epilepsy Controlled?
In most cases, epilepsy can be controlled with medication. It is important to treat seizures, as untreated seizures can be dangerous due to accidents, memory loss and other problems, and even sudden death. For those patients that have seizures despite taking medication, a referral to see an epilepsy specialist is recommended to provide expert management of treatment. There are more advanced medications, dietary and other lifestyle changes, implantable devices and surgeries that are available through an epilepsy specialist. An example of a treatment for epilepsy when medications fails is a Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS), which can help many epilepsy patients without the need for brain surgery.