Understanding Epilepsy A discussion with Zehra Husain, MD, LVH Neurology – 1250 Cedar Crest One in 26 people will develop epilepsy in their lifetime, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. Some 65 million people worldwide, including 3.4 million in the U.S., are living with the neurological condition caused by disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain that lead to a variety of seizures. We asked Zehra Husain, MD, an epileptologist (a neurologist who specializes in seizures and seizure-like episodes) with Lehigh Valley Health Network, to discuss this life-changing condition.

What is epilepsy?

It’s a condition in which people have multiple unprovoked seizures. It occurs because there is a seizure-producing part of the brain, a disturbance in the brain’s electrical activity.

What causes epilepsy?

There are multiple potential causes. Some individuals with a strong family history of epilepsy may have a genetic cause. Other individuals have symptomatic epilepsy, in which seizures form around an abnormality in the brain. This abnormality may present from birth or may be a scar formed later in life due to head trauma, brain tumors, strokes, brain infections or brain surgeries. A specific cause is not identified in about two-thirds of people diagnosed with epilepsy.

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

Information from a variety of sources commonly comes together to produce a diagnosis and a roadmap for treatment. In addition to collecting detailed information from you about the circumstances and symptoms about your seizure, your doctor will likely order tests including an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and an EEG (electroencephalogram).

What happens after an epilepsy diagnosis?

The backbone of every treatment plan for epilepsy is medication. Your seizure specialist will develop a customized medication plan with you.

How is my medication dose chosen?

Most people with epilepsy will find that their seizures can be controlled with some dose of the first or second seizure medication. However, that dose is unique to each individual with epilepsy and can’t be calculated or identified when starting treatment. This means that finding the right dose is a collaborative process between individuals with epilepsy and their seizure specialist. Most seizure specialists will recommend starting at a reasonable dose of medication and watching carefully to confirm that it is effective. If another seizure occurs, the dose is increased by one step. This process is repeated until the seizures stop.

Are there alternatives to seizure medications?

Medications are the backbone of every treatment plan for epilepsy. Fortunately, most patients with epilepsy (approximately 2/3) will have their seizures controlled with medication alone. For those who have ongoing seizures, there are other treatments, including the ketogenic diet and various types of surgeries. In these cases, most patients will continue to take at least some medication. There are also many complementary treatments, including stress management, avoiding triggers, meditation, yoga, and exercise, which improve quality of life and help support seizure medications.

Epilepsy treatment through LVHN

At the LVHN Epilepsy Center, our experienced team of neurologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, neuropsychologists and other professionals collaborate on your care – designed to manage your symptoms so you can live your best life. Our team is experienced in managing complicated epilepsy cases and will help find treatments that achieve freedom from seizures. Request an appointment today.

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