Epilepsy is a scary condition that millions of people face across the world, including people in Utah and Salt Lake City. It is a neurological condition that affects the nervous system, causing seizures.

There are a lot of questions to ask when you or a loved one has experienced a seizure. Here are some common questions and answers.

What causes a seizure?

A seizure happens when there are disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain. Some causes of seizures include stroke, brain tumors, bleeding into the brain and electrolyte imbalance in the body. Sometimes seizures are related to a trauma to the brain, and in other cases, family genes play a role. Most of the time, the cause for a seizure is unknown. In fact, 6 out of 10 people suffering from epilepsy don’t know the cause.

Is it common?

Statistics from epilepsy.com say that 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime. Currently, 65 million people across the world have epilepsy, including 2 million Americans. Each year, 150,000 new cases are diagnosed.

How dangerous is it to have a seizure?

Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) is a rare outcome with a seizure. In most cases, a seizure ends on its own and the cause for concern is minimal. During a seizure, however, a person may injure himself or develop other medical problems. Furthermore, there can be a negative effect on the brain from multiple seizures.

Learn more.

Can epilepsy and seizures be managed?

Epilepsy and seizures are chronic problems for many people. The majority of these people can gain control over their condition with medication and by removing seizure triggers. Others, however, must work closely with a health care team to manage the condition effectively. Untreated sleep disorders very commonly trigger seizures.

Various tools are either available or being developed to make living with epilepsy easier. Ask Dr. Thomas about epilepsy therapy and the many other epilepsy treatment options open to you or your loved one.

How is Sleep Related to Epilepsy?

For certain epileptic syndromes, seizures occur exclusively or primarily during sleep, specifically during non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). This indicates that sleep does influence epilepsy.

Furthermore, for most epileptic syndromes, brain activity during NREM results in “enhanced neuronal excitability,” which can be a facilitator of seizures.

Sleep disorders commonly coexist with epilepsy. Treatments for either condition influence the other. Treatment of a sleep disorder can improve seizure control. Certain epilepsy treatments can work to improve sleep disorder symptoms.

If you think you suffer from seizures in your sleep, come see Dr. Thomas for a consultation. It is important to realize that other sleep-related disorders can resemble seizures. Periodic limb movement, bruxism and rhythmic movement disorder can occur during sleep. Certain psychiatric disorders can occur during sleep as well that resemble seizures, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety attacks.

Read about epilepsy and sleep.

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