Epilepsy Patient Education

Epilepsy Patient Education


Epilepsy is a condition of the nervous system that affects 2% of all Americans, approximately 3 million people. More than 200,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.People have seizures when the electrical signals in the brain misfire causing abnormal brain function. With the exception of very young children and the elderly, the cause of the abnormal brain function is often not identifiable. In about seven out of ten people with epilepsy, no cause can be found. Among the rest, the cause may be any one of a number of things that can make a difference in the way the brain works. Head trauma or lack of oxygen during birth may damage the delicate electrical system in the brain. Other causes include brain tumors, genetic conditions, problems in development of the brain before birth, infections like meningitis or encephalitis, and stroke.
Just because someone has a seizure does not necessarily mean that person has epilepsy. It is when a person experiences repeated seizures for no obvious reason, they are said to have the disorder.

Epilepsy Symptoms:

The human brain is the source of human epilepsy. Although the symptoms of a seizure may affect any part of the body, the electrical events that produce the symptoms occur in the brain. The location of that event, the extent of its reach within the tissue of the brain, how long it lasts and how many times seizures have occurred all are the symptoms that are looked at in determining the presence of the disorder.

Epilepsy Diagnosis:

Diagnosing epilepsy is a multi-step process, usually involving the following evaluations:
Confirmation through patient history, neurological exam, and supporting blood and other clinical tests that the patient has epileptic seizures and not some other type of episode such as fainting, breath-holding (in children), transient ischemic attacks, hypoglycemia, or non-epileptic seizures. Identification of the type of seizure involved. Determination of whether the seizure disorder falls within a recognized syndrome. A clinical evaluation in search of the cause of the epilepsy. Based on all previous findings, selection of the most appropriate therapy.

Epilepsy Treatments:

When the doctor has made a diagnosis of seizures or epilepsy, the next step is to select the best form of treatment. If the seizure was caused by an underlying correctable brain condition, surgery may stop seizures. If epilepsy — that is, a continuing tendency to have seizures — is diagnosed, the doctor will usually prescribe regular use of seizure-preventing medications. If drugs are not successful, other methods may be tried, including surgery, a special diet, complimentary therapy and vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) or Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). The goal of all epilepsy treatment is to prevent further seizures, avoid side effects, and make it possible for people to lead active lives.

Epilepsy Research:

Over the past 20 years physicians at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine have been at the forefront of clinical trials for all new medicines developed for epilepsy. Furthermore, we are continuing to examine new therapies, we are identifying epilepsy risk factors, are part of a study on geriatric epilepsy and are examining the effects of drug interactions. Training and assistance grants and fellowships for young investigators is the core of research support. Speeding work on promising new discoveries that have high potential for breakthrough results in the treatment, prevention and management of epilepsy, however, continues to be our main focus.