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Epilepsy

Managing and living with epilepsy is possible

Epilepsy

A seizure can be alarming, but many people live with epilepsy or recurrent seizures, by managing them with medications, lifestyle changes, and nutritional modifications.


The brain is a complex organ. Brain cells, called neurons, communicate through a combination of chemical and electrical signals. When there is a disturbance in the normal pattern of messages between neurons, epilepsy can occur.1


A seizure is a sudden, abnormal brain activity. Seizure symptoms include loss of consciousness, unexplained sensory and emotional changes, loss of motor control or tremors, rigid muscles, and convulsions throughout the body.* Seizures can occur in a single region of the brain (focal) or can affect the entire brain (generalized). Epilepsy is diagnosed when someone has had one or more seizures, is likely to have more, and the seizures are not caused by a clear medical condition such as an infection.2


Around 65 million people are affected by epilepsy worldwide.3 There are many reasons people may develop epilepsy, but the underlying cause remains changes in the brain. Genetic factors are indicated in inherited forms of epilepsy where the tendency to have seizures runs in a family. Other reasons for epilepsy include infections and injuries that affect the brain, or developmental changes in the brain structure.


Most patients with epilepsy respond to conventional medications, but a certain proportion are resistant. Aside from medication, one treatment strategy is known as the ketogenic diet; a diet higher in fat and very low in carbohydrates.4


*Listed symptoms are not all-inclusive; actual patient symptoms may vary.

  1. 1National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/epilepsy.htm

  2. 2http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/seizures.html . Accessed December 2014.

  3. 3IOM (Institute of Medicine). 2012. Epilepsy across the spectrum: Promoting health and understanding. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

4Wibisono C, Rowe N, Beavis E, Kepreotes H, Mackie FE, Lawson JA, Cardamone M. Ten-Year Single-Center Experience of the Ketogenic Diet: Factors Influencing Efficacy, Tolerability, and Compliance. J Pediatr. 2015 Jan 30.

5Hallböök T, Sjölander A, Åmark P, Miranda M, Bjurulf B, Dahlin M. Effectiveness of the ketogenic diet used to treat resistant childhood epilepsy in Scandinavia. Eur J Paediatr Neurol. 2015 Jan;19(1):29-36.