Q & A Corner - Issue #24

NASET Q & A Corner

Questions and Answers About Seizures and Epilepsy

Introduction

Few experiences match the drama of a convulsive seizure. A person having a severe seizure may cry out, fall to the floor unconscious, twitch or move uncontrollably, drool, or even lose bladder control. Within minutes, the attack is over, and the person regains consciousness but is exhausted and dazed. This is the image most people have when they hear the word epilepsy. However, this type of seizure -- a generalized tonic-clonic seizure -- is only one kind of epilepsy. There are many other kinds, each with a different set of symptoms.  Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally. Many people with epilepsy lead productive and outwardly normal lives. Medical and research advances in the past two decades have led to a better understanding of epilepsy and seizures than ever before. Advanced brain scans and other techniques allow greater accuracy in diagnosing epilepsy and determining when a patient may be helped by surgery.

More than 20 different medications and a variety of surgical techniques are now available and provide good control of seizures for most people with epilepsy. Research on the underlying causes of epilepsy, including identification of genes for some forms of epilepsy and febrile seizures, has led to a greatly improved understanding of epilepsy that may lead to more effective treatments or even new ways of preventing epilepsy in the future.  Using research from from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the focus of this issue of the NASET Q & A Corner will be to address seizures and epilepsy.

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