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EPILEPSY

FAQs

What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a common disorder, but despite this it is not well understood. (Downs, Tim)
 
What causes Epilepsy?
All the functions of the brain depend on signals being passed from one neuron to the next.  Normally the brain is constantly generating electrical rhythms in an orderly fashion.  In epilepsy the order is disrupted by neurons discharging signals inappropriately.  (Downs, Tim)
 
What is a Seizure?
A seizure is basically an alternative term for an epileptic attack.  There can be partial seizures, where the electrical discharge originates in one specific area of the brain, or generalized seizures, where it takes over the whole brain.  (Downs, Tim)
 
Can Anyone have Epilepsy?
Yes, it is possible for anybody to get a seizure under the right circumstances.  Each of us has a brain seizure threshold which makes us more or less resistant to seizures.  (Downs, Tim)
 
Does Epilepsy Strike at any Particular Age?
Epilepsy can strike anyone at any age, But some age groups are more susceptible than others, especially young children under the age of ten years.  (Downs, Tim)
 
What is an Electroencephalogram (EEG)?
The EEG is central to the diagnosis of epilepsy. To record the brain's electrical rhythms, a number of electrodes are placed against the scalp, arranged in a fixed pattern. The modern EEG machine now allows the recording of information from all leads simultaneously. The brain's rhythms can be traced out on folding chart paper, or recorded on videotape. Routinely, brain rhythms are recorded for about 30 minutes.  (Downs, Tim)
 
What is Computerized Tomography (CT)?
Computerized Tomography is a procedure which allows the radiologist to study images of the brain, as if the brain could be "sliced". In this way, the brain can be examined to exclude tumors, strokes, and other localized abnormalities which may have given rise to seizures. (Downs, Tim)
 
What is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)?
"Put simply, MRI depends on the fact that electrically charged spinning bodies generate magnetism. Brain tissue, in common with other tissues, contains water in which are found some free atoms of hydrogen. The hydrogen atom consists of one single positively charged proton forming the nucleus, and a single negatively charged orbiting electron. The natural spinning of the hydrogen nucleus converts it into a tiny natural magnet. Now if the patient's head is exposed to a strong external magnetic field, some of these natural "magnets" (i.e., hydrogen nuclei or protons) will become aligned under its influence. It is then possible to impart energy to these protons by providing a brief radio frequency pulse. When the pulse ends, the protons will give off energy in resuming their previous orientation. This energy is measured by special detectors, and used by computers to build up detailed images of the brain." (Downs, Tim)
 
What Drugs are used to treat Epilepsy?
The following list of drugs can be used to treat epilepsy:
     - Tegretol (Carbamazepine)
     - Epilum (Sodium valproate)
     - Dilantin (Phenytoin Sodium)
     - Zarontin (Ethosuximide)
     - Rivertril (Clonazepam)
     - Frisium (Clobazepam)
     - Valium (Diazepam)
     - Mogadon (Nitrazepam)
     - Prominal (Methylphenobarbitone)
     - Mysoline (Primidone)
     - Phenobarbitone
     - Ospolot (Suthiame)
     - Gabapentin
     - Progabide
     - Vigabatrin
     - Lamotrigine
     - Topiramate
     - Gabitril
             (Downs, Tim)
 
Can Surgery Control Epilepsy?
The idea of treating epilepsy by surgery is not new; the first operation for epilepsy was carried out in 1886. Surgery is clearly inappropriate for patients who suffer from generalized epilepsy where there is no single area which can be identified as the source of the seizures. However, if great care is taken, the results of surgery can be excellent, and in a sense, it is the only way we have of "curing" epilepsy at the present time.  (Downs, Tim)
 
How Can I help someone who is Having a Seizure?
     - keep calm; you cannot stop a seizure once it has started
     - ease the person to the floor and loosen any tight clothing
     - try to remove any hard, sharp, or hot objects that might injure the person. It may be necessary to place a cushion under their head
     - Do NOT put anything in the person's mouth
     - as they are relaxing afterwards, turn them gently on their stomach with the head extended so that any saliva can flo out of the mouth.
     - It may be necessary for them to get accompanied homed
     - in the case of a child contact the parent or gaurdian
     - if the person undergoes a series of convulsions, or a single seizure lasts longer than 10 minutes call for medical assistance immediately.  (Downs, Tim)
 

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