Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which nerve cells in the brain send abnormal signals to other nerve cells and muscles throughout the body. These signals can cause seizures, unusual sensations, or different behaviors. According to the American Epilepsy Society, epilepsy affects 2.7 million people in the United States alone, with another 200,000 people diagnosed each year. Epilepsy can affect people of all ages, however the first seizure or manifestation occurs most often in childhood or in older adulthood. No one fully understands what causes epilepsy, but we do know that it may run in families and that it has been linked to other conditions, such as head trauma, stroke, brain tumor, alcoholism, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Do seizures always indicate Epilepsy?
Seizures are defined as convulsions, brief periods of unconsciousness, or altered behavior. But having a seizure doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got epilepsy. That’s because a seizure can be a symptom of other health problems, such as:
- A high fever
- An extremely low blood sugar level in a person with diabetes
- Acute insult to the brain from a stroke, brain surgery, or a head injury
- Problems that have been present since birth
- Withdrawal from alcohol, prescription medicine, or illegal drugs
- An infection, such as meningitis or encephalitis
- A brain tumor or structural defect in the brain, such as an aneurysm
- Parasitic infections, such as tapeworm or toxoplasmosis
- High blood pressure during pregnancy (eclampsia)
- Sleep deprivation
Even mild seizures may require treatment, because they can be dangerous during activities like driving or swimming. However, because seizures can have many causes, careful monitoring can help your doctor make a diagnosis of epilepsy, or rule it out.
At The Valley Hospital's Adult Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, we carefully evaluate and monitor patients over the course of several days while they stay in our comfortable, state-of-the-art private rooms. For more information about our monitoring process, please follow the link above.
Seizures and sleep deprivation
Research has shown that lack of sleep can cause seizures. Because of this, it is important to study the role sleep deprivation may play in a patient’s seizure history. Valley Hospital’s Adult and Pediatric Sleep Centers are equipped with the latest technology to help determine whether sleep problems may be contributing to a patient’s seizure activity. Please follow the link to find out more.