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Epilepsy: What You Should Know


Over a lifetime, 1 in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy, and about 150,000 to 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with the condition each year. But what is it?

Dr. Kalarickal Oommen, a Covenant Health neurologist, and co-medical director of Covenant’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, explains.

Dr. Kalarickal Oomen

Epilepsy is one of the first human maladies ever described in history, dating back 5,000 years.

Epilepsy is recurring, unprovoked seizures, a manifestation of the brain’s electrical discharges being out of synchrony with the rest of the brain. It takes just two seizures for the condition to be characterized as epilepsy.

The simple behavioral manifestations of the seizures may be limited to hallucinations of smell, taste, strange visions or voices, tingling and numbness. These are referred to as “auras.” The complex manifestations may include staring, smacking, drooling repetitive movements and twitching or jerking, affecting one part of the body, such as the eyes, face, lips, arm or leg. These are called partial seizures. These are referred to as “black-outs” or petite mal seizures.

When that becomes generalized, affecting the whole body, it is what most people recognize as a grand mal or technically, a “generalized tonic-clonic” seizure.

At any given time, about 1 percent of the world’s population has epilepsy. About one in ten people will have a seizure; about a tenth of those will have a recurrence, which is labeled epilepsy.

About 75 percent of those who will have seizures will have them before age 18.

In newborns, the causes can be a prenatal injury, a birth defect in the brain, an infection, or trauma from the birth process itself.

In ages 1-4, causes are mostly unknown or cryptic, some may be genetic

In ages 18-30, the cause is mostly traumatic brain injuries.

In ages over 30 to about 50, it is mostly brain tumors.

In ages over about 60, it can be attributed to stroke and metastatic cancer; and in soldiers, brain injuries from thing like GSWs and IEDs.

Read more about the establishment of Covenant’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit from the Lubbock Avalanche Journal or on our website.

The Epilepsy Foundation has celebrated National Epilepsy Awareness Month since 1969. In 2003, Congress passed a formal resolution declaring November as National Epilepsy Awareness Month.

This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please seek medical advice from your physician for any related medical condition. If you are in need of a primary care doctor, click here to find one in the Covenant Health network.

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