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Articles » NINDS Epilepsy Information Page: NINDS
 

NINDS Epilepsy Information Page: NINDS

Article title: NINDS Epilepsy Information Page: NINDS

Conditions: Epilepsy


What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. Epilepsy is a disorder with many possible causes. Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of neuron activity from illness to brain damage to abnormal brain development can lead to seizures. Epilepsy may develop because of an abnormality in brain wiring, an imbalance of nerve signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, or some combination of these factors. Having a seizure does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. Only when a person has had two or more seizures is he or she considered to have epilepsy. EEGs and brain scans are common diagnostic test for epilepsy.

Is there any treatment?
Once epilepsy is diagnosed, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. For about 80 percent of those diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures can be controlled with modern medicines and surgical techniques. Some antiepiletic drugs can interfere with the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. In 1997, the FDA approved the vagus nerve stimulator for use in people with seizures that are not well-controlled by medication.

What is the prognosis?
Most people with epilepsy lead outwardly normal lives. While epilepsy cannot currently be cured, for some people it does eventually go away. Most seizures do not cause brain damage. It is not uncommon for people with epilepsy, especially children, to develop behavioral and emotional problems, sometimes the consequence of embarrassment and frustration or bullying, teasing, or avoidance in school and other social setting. For many people with epilepsy, the risk of seizures restricts their independence (some states refuse drivers licenses to people with epilepsy) and recreational activities. People with epilepsy are at special risk for two life-threatening conditions: status epilepticus and sudden unexplained death. Most women with epilepsy can become pregnant, but they should discuss their epilepsy and the medications they are taking with their doctors. Women with epilepsy have a 90 percent or better chance of having a normal, healthy baby.

What research is being done?
Scientists are studying potential antiepileptic drugs with goal of enhancing treatment for epilepsy. Scientists continue to study how neurotransmitters interact with brain cells to control nerve firing and how non-neuronal cells in the brain contribute to seizures. One of the most-studied neurotransmitters is GABA, or gamma-aninobutryic acid. Researchers are working to identify genes that may influence epilepsy. This information may allow doctors to prevent epilepsy or to predict which treatments will be most beneficial. Doctors are now experimenting with several new types of therapies for epilepsy, including transplanting fetal pig neurons into the brains of patients to learn whether cell transplants can help control seizures, transplanting stem cells, and using a device that could predict seizures up to 3 minutes before they begin. Researchers are continually improving MRI and other brain scans. Studies have show that in some case, children may experience fewer seizures if they maintain a strict diet - called the ketogenic diet - rich in fats and low in carbohydrates.

 Organizations

Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE)
505 North Lake Shore Drive
#4605
Chicago, IL 60611
CUREepi@aol.com
https://www.cureepilepsy.org/
Tel: 312-923-9117
Fax: 312-923-9118

Epilepsy Foundation
4351 Garden City Drive
Suite 500
Landover, MD 20785-7223
postmaster@efa.org
https://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/
Tel: 301-459-3700 800-EFA-1000 (332-1000)
Fax: 301-577-2684

Epilepsy Institute
257 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10010
website@epilepsyinstitute.org
https://www.epilepsyinstitute.org/
Tel: 212-677-8550
Fax: 212-677-5825

Family Caregiver Alliance
690 Market Street
Suite 600
San Francisco, CA 94104
info@caregiver.org
https://www.caregiver.org/
Tel: 415-434-3388 800-445-8106
Fax: 415-434-3508

National Council on Patient Information and Education
4915 St. Elmo Avenue
Suite 505
Bethesda, MD 20814-6053
ncpie@erols.com
https://www.talkaboutrx.org/
Tel: 301-656-8565
Fax: 301-656-4464

National Family Caregivers Association
10400 Connecticut Avenue
Suite 500
Kensington, MD 20895-3944
info@nfcacares.org
https://www.nfcacares.org/
Tel: 301-942-6430 800-896-3650
Fax: 301-942-2302

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
P.O. Box 8923
(100 Route 37)
New Fairfield, CT 06812-8923
orphan@rarediseases.org
https://www.rarediseases.org/
Tel: 203-746-6518 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-746-6481

Related NINDS Publications and Information

  • Seizures and Epilepsy: Hope Through Research
    Information booklet on seizures, seizure disorders, and epilepsy compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • Febrile Seizures
    Febrile Seizures information sheet compiled by NINDS.
  • Febrile Seizures Fact Sheet
    Febrile seizures fact sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • Convulsiones Febriles
    Convulsiones febriles hoja informativa/Spanish-language fact sheet compiled by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • Infantile Spasms
    Infantile spasms (West Syndrome) information sheet compiled by NINDS.
  • Curing Epilepsy: Focus on the Future
    Summary of a White House-initiated conference, "Curing Epilepsy,", March 30-31, 2000.
  • "Benchmarks" For Epilepsy Research
    Results from the "Curing Epilepsy: Focus on the Future" Conference, held at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in March 2000.
  • Patients with Seizures Sought for Studies
    Lay-language descriptions of new program announcements and clinical trials seeking patient volunteers.
  • Workshop Summary: Models of Epileptogenesis and Epilepsy
    Workshop Summary: Models for Epilepsy & Epileptogenesis
  • Workshop on Antiepileptic Drug (AED) Monotherapy Indications
    A workshop attempt to reach consensus on the best method to obtain FDA approval for monotherapy labeling for antiepileptic drugs (AEDs).

    This fact sheet is in the public domain. You may copy it.Provided by:
    The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    National Institutes of Health
    Bethesda, MD 20892


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