Epilepsy usually begins in childhood. It is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain and produces symptoms such as confusion, staring spells and involuntary shaking or seizures, which may be followed by periods of unconsciousness.
Seizures may be generalised, involving the whole brain, or partial, where a part of the brain is involved. Generalised seizures might include staring spells, falls, unconsciousness, jerking movements, rigid muscles, or loss of muscle tone. Partial seizures can cause emotional changes as well as changes in sensation (hearing, vision, smell, taste or touch), involuntary chewing, lip smacking and other repetitive movements.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
There are numerous causes for seizure activity.
To diagnose epilepsy medical history will be evaluated, and a physical and neurological examination will be undertaken. Blood tests, an electroencephalogram (EEG) to study the electrical activity of the brain and radiology might be requested.
If suitable, anti-seizure medication might be prescribed. If medications are ineffective surgery, such as vagus nerve stimulation may be an option. This involves implanting a device to reduce the frequency of seizures.