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Epilepsy is a neurological disease diagnosed in patients with a history of recurrent seizures. The seizures are an abnormal process in the brain that may result in a variety of symptoms, whether mild or severe. Approximately 2.5 million people are suffering from epilepsy in the U.S. alone – a third of them children. An accurate diagnosis and treatment is essential for managing the disease and preventing mortality.

The signs and symptoms of epilepsy are fairly consistent from patient to patient, although they may vary in intensity or severity. Seizures, for example, may cause a simple blank or trance-like stare lasting just a few seconds, or they may result in uncontrollable, full-bodied convulsions. Each episode is usually similar to previous episodes, but all seizures pose serious risk to the health of epileptic individuals and those around them – especially if a seizure occurs while driving.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A single seizure is not indicative of epilepsy, as seizures affect approximately 10 percent of the population at least once in a lifetime. However, an onset of two or more episodes could signal an underlying health condition. A neurologist can identify the type of seizures a patient is experiencing and determine whether an underlying condition or injury is the cause. For example, epilepsy can onset as the result of a head trauma, stroke or a disease like meningitis.

Epilepsy can occur at any age, although children and seniors are at the highest risk for developing the condition. The disease is more frequently diagnosed in men than women and is more likely to occur in individuals with a family history of the disorder. A neurologist will typically diagnose epilepsy in patients after a complete medical examination, lab testing and neurological imaging scans. EEG scans, MRI scans and CT scans are just some of the imaging scans that are helpful for making an accurate diagnosis.

Anti-epileptic drugs are created to reduce the severity of seizures, as well as their frequency. Many patients experience no seizures at all while on medications. The drugs are prescribed to patients of all ages, including children and seniors. Children often ‘outgrow’ epilepsy, requiring no medications. Adults may also be able to safely stop taking medications after at least 24 seizure-free months.

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