Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that is the result of abnormal brain activity, bringing about loss of consciousness, convulsions (seizures) and other sensory disturbances. Symptoms of epilepsy range from mild episodes of staring or petit-mal seizures, to more severe and uncontrolled movements and seizures known as grand-mal.
Epilepsy currently affects up to 65 million individuals worldwide and 300,000 Canadians, with 15,000 new cases of the disorder being diagnosed in Canada each year. At least 30% of patients that are diagnosed with epilepsy also have accompanying learning disabilities, psychiatric disorders, memory loss, and even behavioural problems. The number of Canadians diagnosed with epilepsy is higher than the number of Canadians that have been diagnosed with colon cancer, and almost as high as the number of Canadians with prostate and breast cancer. (It is always important to have regular checkups with your physician and go for any screenings required. http://alighahary.blogspot.ca)
In as many as 60% of the cases of epilepsy, the cause is unknown. However, epilepsy can also be the result of serious brain injury (i.e. trauma at birth), being involved a motor vehicle accident, or having a stroke. Brain tumors and certain infections can also lead to epilepsy. While epilepsy is more frequently diagnosed in children and seniors, it can affect individuals of all ages. 44% are diagnosed with epilepsy before the age of 5, 55% before the age of 10, and 75% to 85% before age 18. In nearly half of childhood cases, seizures disappear completely.
Along with the aforementioned causes, seizures can also be triggered by stress, emotions, lack of sleep, having poor nutrition or skipping meals, illness, fever and allergies.
Long-term drug therapy is used to treat epilepsy. Vancouver physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary and Neurologists across Canada prescribe both narrow-spectrum and broad-spectrum AED’s, depending on the types of seizures the patient is having, and they can be prescribed as a single medication or used in combination with others. Medications prescribed to treat epilepsy include those in the class known as Benzodiazepines, such as Clonazepam and Diazepam, which are also commonly used to treat those who have anxiety or difficulty sleeping. Other medications commonly prescribed to treat epilepsy and seizures include Divalproex, Gabapentin and Carbamazepine. If medications are unsuccessful, brain surgery may be considered.
As always, these medications have side effects and one individual may not react the same as another, so it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of these drugs with your doctor and pharmacist and be sure to make them aware of any concerns you have or side effects you may be experiencing.