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Definition

Epilepsy is a neurological (central nervous system) disorder characterised by seizures and short periods of unusual behaviour, sensations and loss of consciousness at times, due to disruption of the nerve cell activity in the brain.

Symptoms

Seizure signs and symptoms are:

  • Involuntary and uncontrollable jerking movements of the limbs
  • Loss of consciousness and awareness of surrounding
  • Psychic symptoms of confusion and staring blankly

Risk Factors

Factors which increase the risk of epilepsy are:

  • Age - Usually early childhood and after the age 60 but conditions may appear at any age
  • Family history - Family history of epilepsy
  • Head injuries - In some cases
  • Stroke and other vascular diseases - Any stroke induced brain damage can trigger epilepsy
  • Dementia - Memory loss in older adults
  • Brain infections - Meningitis can cause infection and inflammation in the brain or spinal cord
  • Seizures in childhood - High fevers in childhood can sometimes be associated with seizures

Diagnosis

The doctor will do the following:

  • Patient medical history - Review signs and symptoms and medical history
  • Neurological examination and neuropsychological tests - Check behaviour, assess thinking, memory and speech skills, motor abilities and mental function to determine the type of epilepsy and area of brain affected
  • Blood tests - To check for infections, genetic conditions associated with seizures
  • Scans - Doctors may run a CT scan, an MRI, a PET scan, a SPECT test and an Electroencephalogram (EEG) test to detect brain abnormalities and seizure epicenter

Treatment

Doctors generally treat epilepsy with medication. If medications don't treat the condition, doctors may propose surgery or therapies like vagus nerve stimulation and a ketogenic diet.

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