Cairns Neurophysiology | Epilepsy Information

What is Epilepsy? Epilepsy is a general term used to define patients who have a tendency for recurring seizures due to disturbances in electrical signaling in the brain. Epilepsy is also known as a seizure disorder. The word epilepsy is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘to be seized, to be overwhelmed by surprise‘.

Anyone can have a seizure, if the brain is exposed to a strong enough stimulus. Approximately 2 in every 100 people will have a single seizure at some time during their lives. A seizure occurs when the electrical activity that controls the bodies actions becomes unregulated and disrupted. Epilepsy is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures that were not caused by some known medical condition, like alcohol withdrawal or extremely low blood sugar. The kind of seizure and part of the body that is affected is depicted by the part where the irregular activity occurs.

If epilepsy is suspected, one of the more common diagnostic tests used is the EEG.

In more than three-quarters of all cases of epilepsy, no cause can be found. The patient is healthy and there is no underlying illness, disease, or damage causing them to have seizures. Sometimes a cause for the epilepsy can be found. Anything that damages or injures the brain can result in epilepsy. Some of the common causes are:

  • Head injury/acquired brain injury
  • Loss of oxygen
  • Choking
  • Strokes, tumours or cysts
  • Chromosomal or metabolic disorders,
  • Brain infections (e.g. meningitis or encephalitis)
  • Genetic conditions such as tuber sclerosis
  • Cerebrovascular degeneration in the elderly
  • Environmental causes
  • Genetic tendency in the family to have seizures

Epilepsy is usually controlled, but not cured, with medication.

Seizures can be sparked by a variety of stimuli, including:

  • Lights that flash at a certain speed
  • The flickering of a television screen
  • Sudden loud noises or repetitive sounds
  • Infections, viruses, or allergies
  • Alcohol or other drugs
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Stress
  • Menstruation or hormonal changes
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of sleep
  • Fever
  • Missed medications
  • Seizures can also occur seemingly for no reason at all

Epilepsy Queensland

For more information, please visit the Epilepsy Queensland website

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