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Understanding Epilepsy

Nov 24, 2020

Understanding Epilepsy

Unless you or a loved one has received an epilepsy diagnosis, chances are you don’t know much about the condition. But one in 26 people will develop epilepsy over their lifetime, according to the Epilepsy Foundation.

And about one in 100 people has experienced a single unprovoked seizure or received an epilepsy diagnosis.

Not just seizures

Epilepsy ranks number four on the list of most common neurological conditions. But many people don’t realize that seizures that cause loss of consciousness are not the only symptom of epilepsy.

“Many patients will experience something called ‘aura,’” explains Rajinder Singh, DO, epileptologist for Dayton Center for Neurological Disorders and epilepsy medical director for Kettering Brain & Spine.

Aura can be a prelude to seizures. It is characterized by unusual sensations, such as a strange feeling of the stomach rising, nausea, fear, hallucinations, a ringing in the ears, or sensory changes.

Life after diagnosis

After an epilepsy diagnosis, many patients wonder how life will change. Can a person with epilepsy still drive a car? Play sports? Go for a run?

“The best thing you can do for your epilepsy is work with an epileptologist to get your symptoms under control,” says Dr. Singh.

Many states require proof that a person has been seizure-free for a specific amount of time before they will issue a driver’s license.

By seeking treatment from an epileptologist, people can reach this symptom-free length of time and experience a significant improvement in their quality of life.

Treatment options

The first line of treatment for epilepsy is typically medication.

“However, medication works only about 60% of the time,” Dr. Singh says. “The other 40% of patients need to work with an epilepsy center to find other treatment options, such as epilepsy surgery, vagal nerve stimulation, or deep brain stimulation.”

Dr. Singh explains that if a patient is still having seizures after trying two appropriately chosen medications, the chance of success with a third option is less than 5%.

At Kettering Health Network, patients who do not respond to medication may benefit from a minimally invasive surgery to precisely identify and target the origins of the seizures.

How you can help

If you are a bystander when someone is experiencing a seizure, Dr. Singh advises you to “remain calm, do not put anything in the person’s mouth, and remove any sharp objects nearby.”

If the person having the seizure is someone you know, Dr. Singh says that the best thing you can do is take a cell phone video of the seizure.

“That way, you can share the footage with the epileptologist for an assessment,” he explains. If the person is a stranger, call 911 to seek emergency medical attention.

Take the next step

If you're struggling with epilepsy, take the next step and learn more on our Epilepsy page.