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Epilepsy is a common condition that causes repeated seizures. Seizures may cause problems with muscle control, movement, speech, vision, or awareness. They usually don't last very long, but they can be scary. Treatment usually works to control and reduce seizures.
Many things can cause epilepsy. It may develop as a result of a head injury or a condition that causes damage to the brain, like a tumour or stroke. Genes may also play a role. But you don't have to have a family history to develop it. Often doctors don't know what causes epilepsy.
The main symptom of epilepsy is repeated seizures that happen without warning. There are different kinds of seizures. You may notice strange smells or sounds. You may lose control of your muscles. Or your body may twitch or jerk. Your symptoms will depend on the type of seizure you have.
Diagnosing epilepsy can be hard. Your doctor will ask questions to find out what happened just before, during, and right after a seizure. Your doctor will examine you. You'll have some tests, such as an electroencephalogram. This information can help your doctor decide what kind of seizures you have and if you have epilepsy.
You can take medicines to control and reduce seizures. Which type you use depends on the type of seizure. You and your doctor will need to find the right combination, schedule, and dose of medicine. If medicine alone doesn't help, your doctor may suggest a special diet or surgery to help reduce seizures.
To control your seizures, you need to follow your treatment plan. If you take medicine to control seizures, you must take it exactly as prescribed.
The medicine works only if you take the right amount on the schedule your doctor sets up. Following this schedule keeps the right level of medicine in your body. Even missing just a few doses can allow seizures to happen.
You might be on a special ketogenic diet. If so, you'll need to follow the diet exactly for it to help prevent seizures.
As you follow your treatment plan, also try to figure out and avoid things that may make you more likely to have a seizure. These may include:
If you keep having seizures despite treatment, keep a record of them. Note the date, time of day, and any details about the seizure that you can remember. Your doctor can use this information to plan or adjust your medicine or other treatment. The record can also help your doctor find out what kinds of seizures you are having.
If you have epilepsy:
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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Current as of: August 4, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Steven C. Schachter MD - Neurology & Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine
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