Epilepsy Treatment and Management

Epilepsy is a condition of the nervous system that affects 2.5 million Americans. More than 180,000 people are diagnosed with epilepsy every year.
Patients with epilepsy have seizures when the electrical signals in the brain misfire. The brain's normal electrical activity is disrupted by these overactive electrical discharges, causing a temporary communication problem between nerve cells. However, just because someone has a seizure does not necessarily mean that person has epilepsy. Seizures can be triggered in anyone under certain conditions such as life-threatening dehydration or high temperature. But when a person experiences repeated seizures for no obvious reason, that person is said to have epilepsy.

Many people develop epilepsy as children or teens: others develop it later in life. For some people with epilepsy (particularly kids), the seizures eventually become less frequent or disappear altogether. Epilepsy is not contagious or inherited, but a person who has a close relative with epilepsy has a slightly higher risk for epilepsy than somebody with no family history of seizures. Most people with epilepsy lead outwardly normal lives.

While epilepsy cannot currently be cured, for some people it does eventually go away. Most seizures do not cause brain damage. It is not uncommon for people with epilepsy, especially children, to develop behavioral and emotional problems, sometimes the consequence of embarrassment and frustration or bullying, teasing, or avoidance in school and other social setting. For many people with epilepsy, the risk of seizures restricts their independence and recreational activities.

The primary treatment options for patients with epilepsy are medications, surgery and vagus nerve stimulation. The same treatment does not work for every patient because the type and severity of epilepsy varies. The goal is to prevent seizures while causing as few side effects as possible. With the help of your doctor, you can weigh the benefits of a particular treatment against its drawbacks, including side effects, health risks, and cost.


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