NZ Woman's Weekly

Epilepsy Explained

Epilepsy Explained

Not everyone knows it, but seizures can start in people of all ages.

All too often, we tend to think of epilepsy as a condition that starts in childhood, and if you haven’t been diagnosed by the time you’re an adult, you aren’t likely to be affected.

But that’s not true. Children account for an estimated 30% of new cases diagnosed every year, while the rest show up in adults. Elderly people tend to be more prone to the condition among adults, but it can affect people of any age.

WHAT IS EPILEPSY?

It’s a neurological condition which leaves you with a tendency to have seizures. These seizures are due to a burst of electrical impulses in the brain, which can affect the body in various ways, such as making muscles convulse.

It usually takes having more than one seizure for epilepsy to be diagnosed, and there are many different types that affect different parts of the brain and impact on you in varying ways.

THE CAUSES

Doctors don’t always know what causes the condition. In cases where there is a clear reason, some kind of brain injury is usually to blame.
These can include:
• Low oxygen during birth.
• Head injuries during birth or as the result of an accident.
• Brain tumours.
• Genetic conditions that cause brain injuries.
• Infections such as meningitis or encephalitis.
• Strokes or mini-strokes (TIAs).
• Abnormal levels of substances in the body such as sodium or blood sugar.
• Use of some medications, including recreational drugs such as cocaine, and some antidepressants.
Some types of epilepsy can be inherited. However, in around 70% of all known cases, no reason for the epilepsy diagnosis is ever discovered.

PREVENTION

If you’ve been diagnosed with epilepsy, you can try to lessen the chances of having a seizure by:
• Keeping blood-sugar levels stable. That means not overdoing sweet and starchy foods and making sure you don’t skip meals.
• Getting enough sleep.
• Avoiding emotional stress.
• Not overdoing alcohol or using recreational drugs.

FLICKERING LIGHTS

It’s a common misconception that flickering lights cause seizures in all epileptics, but only those who suffer from photosensitive epilepsy are affected. This type of epilepsy usually starts before the age of 20 and is rare later in life.

IS IT EPILEPSY?

Other medical conditions can cause what looks like an epileptic seizure. These include:
• Having very low blood sugar.
• Fainting attacks due to a drop in blood pressure.
• Problems with blood circulation and the heart.
• TIA (a mini-stroke).

SAFE, NOT SORRY

It is important to see your doctor if you’ve experienced any kind of seizure.

DID YOU KNOW… IN 50% OF WOMEN WITH EPILEPSY, SEIZURES ARE MORE LIKELY TO OCCUR AROUND THE TIME OF THEIR PERIOD.

NZWW Dec-22-2014-issue

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