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One classification of epileptic seizures, called the Clinical and Electroencephalographical Classification of Epileptics of the International League Against Epilepsy, identifies four main types: (1) partial seizures, including those that begin locally, which are subdivided into (A) partial seizures with elementary symptomatology, (B) partial seizures with complex symptomatology (those with impairment of consciousness only, psychomotor symptomatology, and psychosensory symptomatology), and (C) partial seizures that are secondarily generalized; (2) generalized seizures that are bilaterally symmetrical and without local onset; (3) unilateral seizures (those involving only one hemisphere); and (4) other unclassified epileptic seizures.
An attack of petit mal (absence) epilepsy lasts only a few seconds and has sudden onset with no aura or warning and no postictal symptoms. Seizures of this type usually affect children between the ages of 5 and 12 years and may disappear during puberty, but they can continue throughout life. There typically is a twitching about the eyes or mouth, the patient remains sitting or standing, and appears to have had no more than a lapse of attention or a moment of absent-mindedness.
An attack of grand mal (tonic-clonic) epilepsy usually begins with bilateral jerks of the extremities or focal seizure activity. There is loss of consciousness and both tonic and clonic type convulsions. The patient may be incontinent during the attack and there is danger of tongue biting. In the postictal phase the patient is confused and drowsy.
Atonic or akinetic seizures are characterized by loss of body tone that can produce nodding of the head, weakness of the knees, or total collapse and falling. The patient usually remains conscious during the attack.
The major antiepileptic drugs are phenytoin (Dilantin), which is usually the drug of choice, phenobarbital, primidone (Mysoline), carbamazepine (Tegretol) for complex partial tonic-clonic seizures, and ethosuximide (Zarontin) and clonazepam (Klonopin) for absence seizures. Valproic acid (Depakene) is also used in the treatment of absence seizures. The choice of drug and calculation of optimal dosage is very difficult and highly individualized.
All of the anticonvulsant drugs can produce unpleasant side effects. They include gingival hyperplasia, rash, and, in the case of Dilantin, fever and leukopenia. Physical dependence can become a problem in patients taking phenobarbital or primidone, which is largely converted to phenobarbital in the blood stream. Toxic side effects are also common and include drowsiness, ataxia, nausea, sedation, and dizziness. The untoward effects of anticonvulsant drug therapy require close monitoring of the patient's response to therapy and regulation of dosage as indicated.
Until a diagnosis of epilepsy is confirmed, observations made before, during, and after each of the seizures can provide important information to the diagnostician. Such data also can help prepare an effective plan of care for managing the seizures once a definitive diagnosis is made.
Just before a seizure (the preictal stage) the patient may experience an abnormal somatic, visceral, or psychic sensation called an aura. The presence or absence of the aura and its nature (if it is present) should be noted and recorded. If a patient does experience a particular kind of aura just before each seizure, this information can be useful when planning care for prevention of injury. It also is helpful to note what the patient was doing just before the seizure began. If a particular emotional event or environmental or physiologic condition is found to trigger the seizures, the patient might be able to use this information to avoid or minimize the recurrence of seizures.
During the interictal stage (while the seizure is occurring) significant data include the time the seizure begins and its duration; where in the body the seizure begins and what parts of the body are involved; whether the head or eyes turn to one side and, if so, to which side; whether there is incontinence of urine or stool, bleeding, or foaming or frothing at the mouth; effects of the seizure on the vital signs; and changes in skin color or profuse perspiration.
During the postictal period the patient is assessed for lethargy, confusion, impaired speech, and reports of headache or muscle soreness.
The successful long-term management of epilepsy requires coordinated effort on the part of the patient, family, and health care professionals. Patient and family education and support are essential components of any plan of care. Epileptic patients must take their prescribed medications on their own and actively participate in the management of their illness. They and those upon whom they are dependent (as in the case of children) must know the nature of the illness, the purpose and expected effects of treatment, the side effects of the drug they are taking and its potential for interaction with other drugs that could inhibit or enhance its anticonvulsant action, and the signs and symptoms of drug intolerance that should be reported to the physician or nurse.
Education should also include information about possible seizure triggers and ways in which they might be avoided. Alcohol is especially dangerous for epileptic persons because most antiepileptic drugs are sedatives and cardiopulmonary depressants. The combination of drug and alcohol could cause loss of consciousness or even death. Moreover, alcohol acts as a seizure trigger in some persons.
It is important that patients with epilepsy wear some form of medical identification. In spite of efforts to educate the general public about the nature of epilepsy and its effects on those who have it, there remains some social stigma attached to epilepsy. Therefore, many patients do not want their friends, classmates, or employers to know they have the disease. Efforts must be made to improve the self-esteem of these people. Local chapters of the Epilepsy Association of America offer programs and opportunities for social interaction and group support to help persons with epilepsy and their families deal with the psychosocial effects of the disease. Information and guidance to a local chapter can be obtained by contacting the Epilepsy Association of America, 111 W. 55th St., New York, NY 10019.
The Epilepsy Foundation of America, 4351 Garden City Dr., Suite 406, Landover, MD 20785, supplies information on all aspects of epilepsy and can refer patients and their families to specialists and clinics in their locality.
One of the major challenges to persons working in the health field and concerned with the care of patients with epilepsy is the dispelling of myths and superstitions about the disease and the propagation of accurate information. Most persons with epilepsy can lead normal lives with few restrictions, but many are subjected to unfair employment practices and social stigma because of prejudices resulting from the general public's ignorance of the effects of epilepsy.
epilepsy/ep·i·lep·sy/ (ep´ĭ-lep″se) any of a group of syndromes characterized by paroxysmal transient disturbances of brain function that may be manifested as episodic impairment or loss of consciousness, abnormal motor phenomena, psychic or sensory disturbances, or perturbation of the autonomic nervous system; symptoms are due to disturbance of the electrical activity of the brain.
epilepsyNeurology Any syndrome characterized by paroxysmal, usually transient, defects in cerebral function which are manifest as episodic impairment of neurologic activity, loss of consciousness, abnormal motor activity, sensory defects and alterations in the autonomic nervous system Imaging MRI, PET, SPECT. See Absence, Automatic epilepsy, Focal epilepsy, Gelastic epilepsy, Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, Progressive myoclonus epilepsy, Seizure disorder.
Synonym(s): seizure disorder.
epilepsyA physical indication of an abnormal electrical discharge in the brain. Epilepsy takes various forms. These include generalized epilepsy, or ‘grand mal’ which is a major fit affecting all the muscles of the body with a massive contraction (tonic stage) followed by a succession of jerky contractions (clonic stage); partial seizures, which may affect only a few muscles (simple partial seizures) or may also involve almost any of the functions of the brain and cause elaborate hallucinations (complex partial seizures); and absence attack, or ‘petit mal’ in which the affected person, usually a child, is momentarily inaccessible but does not fall or appear to lose consciousness.
epilepsya nervous condition due to abnormalities in the brain cortex that results in seizures ranging from a sense of numbness in certain body areas (petit mal) to extreme muscular convulsions and fits (grand mal). Epileptics exhibit large, abnormal brain waves, which can be detected on an EEG.
Patient discussion about epilepsy
Q. what are the chances for a one time epileptic seizure? I had an epileptic seizure a few years ago and after all the tests it appeared to be a one time seizure. I know having one indicates my tendency for this kind of seizures so should I be afraid now to do things that might bring it up again- like alcohol, drugs, being exposed to flashing lights or having lack of sleep? what are the chances of it to come back after 5 years? any help will be very appreciated....thanks!
Q. if some one gets a one time epileptic seizure- he have to take medication all his life? how do they decide if it's a one timer or it's going to continue from this day forth?
Q. will my son get over his epilepsy he has had seizers since he was 6 months old he is know 3 and a halfMore discussions about epilepsy