People suffering from epilepsy experience changes in their quality of life in the form of decreased mobility. The disease can also impact their learning, education, professional life, relationships, and social interactions.
Epilepsy is the brain’s propensity to produce fast, erratic electrical waves that interfere with other brain functions and cause seizures. Seizures occur when a rapid and intense increase in electrical activity affects part(s) of the brain. When a person has two or more seizures for no reason, they may be diagnosed with epilepsy.
About 3.4 million people in the United States have some form of epilepsy. About 150,000 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed each year. One in ten people will have a seizure in their lifetime, and one in 26 will be diagnosed with epilepsy.
Seizures can last from a few seconds to several minutes. They can have many obvious symptoms, from cramps and loss of consciousness to more subtle ones such as sunken eyes, chapped lips, or sudden movements in the arms and legs.
Different types of treatment options that treat patients with epilepsy.
Impact of Epilepsy on Patients’ Lives
The impact of epilepsy and its symptoms is multifaceted and broad. The frequency of seizures is unpredictable and often severe. It raises the risk of injury, hospitalization, and mortality, and adversely affects the mental health of a patient. This may also result in anxiety, depression, or cognitive impairment.
Seizures can also contribute to stigmatization and social isolation, with negative effects on individual confidence and self-esteem. The pain of epilepsy, however, continues beyond the consequences of seizures themselves. In fact, people with epilepsy are more likely to have medical or psychological comorbidities than those without epilepsy.
Co-morbidity of patients with epilepsy is associated with detrimental effects on the subjective health status and quality of life.
Treatment Options for Epilepsy
There’s no treatment for epilepsy yet. Medications can not treat epilepsy the same way that penicillin will treat an infection. However, for many people with epilepsy, the drugs can avoid seizures as long as they are administered regularly; but effective drug treatment requires an active participation of the patient.
Antiepileptic medications effectively prevent seizures in most people who take them regularly, as prescribed. It has been estimated that at least 50% of all patients with epilepsy have full control of their seizures for a prolonged period of time. 20% of patients experience a substantial decrease in the number of seizures.
Most epilepsy medications are taken orally. The decision of a doctor to prescribe drugs depends on what sort of seizure a person is having and by conducting an Epilepsy Test. It may take some time to find exactly the right dose of the right drug for each person with epilepsy.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
VNS is a type of treatment in which short bursts of electrical energy are transmitted to the brain via the vagus nerve, a large nerve in the neck. The energy comes from a battery, surgically inserted under the skin, usually on the chest. In the same process, the lead is threaded under the skin and connected to the vagus nerve. The physician programs the device to deliver small electrical stimulation bursts every few minutes.
Since the VNS system provides stimulation automatically at normal pulses all the time, the magnet can be used to provide extra electronic stimulation between cycles. This happens by running the magnet over the chest region where the VNS system is implanted.
Responsive Nerve Stimulation (RNS)
RNS is a common therapy for early-onset seizures that can’t be managed by medication.
The RNS device automatically performs treatment when it senses electrical brain activity that may lead to seizures. The neurostimulator is placed under the scalp and within the skull. The leads are located at the center of your seizure and linked to the neurostimulator.
Your doctor will configure your neurostimulator to constantly track your brain electrical activity, identify patterns that are unique to you, and provide brief stimulus pulses that you do not feel.
If antiepileptic medications fail to control or minimize seizures, brain surgery may be required.
Brain surgery is more likely to be considered when someone has epilepsy with the following:
- Epileptic seizures and not pseudoseizures have been recorded.
- Has tried traditional medicines without success (or has had a poor reaction to them).
- Has seizures that often begin in just one part of the brain.
- Has seizures in a part of the brain that can be removed without damaging important functions like speech, memory, or eyesight.
Epilepsy surgery is a delicate, complex procedure. It must be done by a trained, experienced surgical team. It is typically performed in neurology centers that treat patients with epilepsy. In addition to operations that remove a small part of the brain where seizures begin, other techniques can be used to disrupt the distribution of electrical energy in the brain.
In the end, good epilepsy management involves a holistic approach to care, with treatment personalized to the needs of specific patients. This can only be accomplished by clear doctor-patient communication and the complete participation of a multidisciplinary care team.