Epilepsy is a very serious medical condition. Many people live with it every day. It can successfully be treated with medication. If left untreated, it can be fatal or debilitating.
The Rx Advocates want to make sure that no one has to go without their epilepsy medication.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain disorder or seizure disorder characterized by chronic seizures. These are recurring with no apparent cause. It is the fourth most common brain disorder in the world. Around 3.4 million people in the U.S. have epilepsy as of 2015. That is 3 million adults and 470,000 children. If a person has two or more seizures that occur without an outside cause, their doctor could diagnose them with epilepsy.
Seizures are electrical bursts of activity in the brain. They are sudden and temporary. These bursts disturb the path of the messages between brain cells. They cause changes in how a person moves and acts as well as change their senses and awareness. These are all involuntary.
Anyone can have a seizure. People with epilepsy have a lower seizure threshold than those without. This means they are more likely to have a seizure. One seizure is an event. It is likely a symptom of something else.
There are different types of seizures. Those are:
- Generalized onset seizures
- Focal onset seizures
- Focal onset aware
- Focal onset impaired
- Unknown onset seizures
Types of Epilepsy
There are four different types of epilepsy:
- Combined focal and generalized
The type of seizure a person has will determine the type of epilepsy they have.
People with generalized epilepsy typically have generalized seizures. These seizures affect both sides of the brain. They can be motor (involving physical movement) or non-motor. Generalized epilepsy can affect adults but usually begins during childhood.
Motor seizures may have the following symptoms:
- Limp or weak limbs
- Epileptic spasms (full-body)
- Muscles that are rigid and tense
- Jerking movements
- Muscle twitching
Non-motor seizures are also known as absence seizures. Symptoms can include:
- Eyelids that flutter
- Brief twitches
- Staring into space
- Sudden stop in movement
This epilepsy is characterized by focal seizures, affecting one part of the brain. These seizures can begin in one place and move to other places. Someone who has a focal seizure can experience motor and non-motor symptoms. Some of these are:
- An aura: This can be the beginning of a focal seizure. Symptoms during the aura are usually minor but signify the onset of a seizure. It can cause the stomach to feel uneasy.
- Motor symptoms:
- Twitching muscles
- Repeated movements
- Non-motor symptoms:
- Stop in movement
- Changes in their thoughts and/or emotions
- Hot or cold waves
Combined Generalized and Focal Epilepsy
This is the combination of both types of epilepsy. Someone with this has both kinds of seizures. Because of this, they can experience a mix of the above symptoms listed.
When a doctor cannot determine where the seizures begin, they will be diagnosed with unknown epilepsy. These seizures typically last 1-3 minutes. If a seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, 911 should be called immediately.
There can be motor and non-motor symptoms of these seizures. Motor seizures often present as tonic-clonic. These have the following symptoms:
- Blue face due to a lack of oxygen
- Stiff body
- Loss of consciousness
- Jerking and convulsing that is rhythmic and rapid
- Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
Non-motor symptoms can be:
- Blank stare
- Stop in movement
Causes of Epilepsy
No cause can be identified in around half the cases of epilepsy. For the others, there are several possible causes:
- Head trauma
- Abnormalities in the brain
- Infections such as meningitis, HIV, or encephalitis
- Prenatal injury
- Developmental disorders
Most of the time, doctors treat epilepsy with medications. When medicine does not work, other alternatives can include:
- Future treatments
- Minimally invasive surgery
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
- External trigeminal nerve stimulation
Anti-epileptic medication, when taken exactly as prescribed, is a very effective way to treat this disorder. There are several medications a patient’s doctor could choose for their treatment. Some of the more common anti-epileptic medications are:
- Lamotrigine (Lamictal)
- Gabapentin (Neurontin)
- Levetiracetam (Keppra, Spritam)
- Phenytoin (Dilantin)
- Zonisamide (Zonegran)
- Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
- Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal)
- Topiramate (Topamax)
Help With Medications
The Rx Advocates is here to help people afford medications that cost too much money. We believe no one should have to miss their epilepsy medicine because of cost.