Epilepsy is a condition in which a person has seizures that happen again and again. A seizure is an excited flood of impulses from the brain's nerve cells. It can cause a temporary upset of motor, sensory, or mental function.
What causes epilepsy?
In most cases, the cause of epilepsy is unknown. But it may be caused by:
Genetic metabolic defects
Nervous system infections such as meningitis
High blood pressure
Epilepsy can begin at any age. Often the first signs show up before the age of 20.
What is a partial seizure?
A seizure is the way the body reacts to nerve cells that are overexcited and fire too many signals to the rest of the body. When the flood of signals starts in a small part of the brain, it is called a partial seizure.
Are there different kinds of partial seizures?
Yes. In general, there are 2 kinds of partial seizures: simple and complex.
In a Simple Partial Seizure, a person:
Can answer questions and follow commands
Can recall what happened during the seizure
In a Complex Partial Seizure, a person:
Loses or has a change in consciousness
May not be able to answer questions or follow commands
Often cannot recall what happened during part or all of the seizure
What are the signs of a simple partial seizure?
They vary. It depends on what part of the brain is involved. (An "aura" is a term used to describe the signs and symptoms that may happen at the start of a seizure.)
Some signs and symptoms include:
Odd muscle movements, like stiffening, twitching, or jerking (these may affect one part of the body or can spread)
Change in the senses, like feeling pins and needles, having a bad taste in the mouth, smelling something bad, seeing flashing lights, or hearing buzzing or a person's voice
Changes in heart rate or breathing rate
A person can also feel:
As if he or she is in a dream
Fearful, anxious, or depressed
As if time is slowing down or speeding up
That well known things seem strange or that strange things seem well known
A person stays alert and can recall what happened during the seizure.
After the seizure, the person may feel weak in the part of the body affected. He or she may also have problems seeing or talking. These problems can last from minutes to hours.
What are the signs of a complex partial seizure?
A loss of consciousness or change in consciousness is one sign of a complex partial seizure. Most often a person just stares. He or she does not answer questions or follow commands.
A simple partial seizure may come before a complex partial seizure. For example, some people may have an odd taste in their mouths or smell an odor. Other people may feel that they have already gone through what is happening.
Other signs may include:
Smacking lips, chewing, or swallowing
Making a face
Making the same movement over and over, like picking at clothes or walking in a circle
Making sounds, like grunts, or repeating a group of words
Often the person cannot recall all or part of what happened. He or she may be confused after the seizure. Most often, it lasts less than 15 minutes. Some symptoms, such as being tired, can last for hours.
How are partial seizures treated?
Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are medicines used to control seizures. But, even with treatment about 40% of people will still have some seizures. Many people need 2 or more AEDs to improve seizure control. In some cases, people have surgery. Others try what is called nerve stimulation therapy.
LYRICA is a drug approved by the FDA to treat adults with partial seizures who take 1 or more AEDs but still have seizures.
In studies, up to 51% of people treated with LYRICA had a 50% or greater drop in how often they had seizures. LYRICA is the first new drug to be approved for epilepsy in more than 5 years.
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