Defining Epilepsy

Defining epilepsy isn’t easy as epilepsy comes in all kinds of different configurations. Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that involves a pattern of at least two seizures whose cause is unrelated to a known medical condition. The word epilepsy is a broad term for a vast variety of different types of seizures.

When I first starting having seizures as a child there were only two terms to describe epilepsy, grand mal and petite mal. Grand Mal seizures involved a loss of consciousness and falling down while Petite Mal seizures described seizures where a brief lapse of conscious activity occurs often with twitching of facial muscles or hands.

Because seizures take many different forms and affect different people in different ways, the terms to describe to define epilepsy have broadened. Now, neurologists generally classify seizures into either primary generalized seizures or partial seizures. Each of the two types of seizures is further broken down into syndromes such as simple partial seizures, complex partial seizures, myoclonic seizures, juvenile myoclonic seizures, tonic clonic seizures and more.

The sheer number of different types of seizures is confusing to the newly diagnosed. To top it off, there are different types of epilepsy such as Benign Rolandic Epilepsy, Frontal Lobe Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, Rassmussen’s Syndrome and more. When all these terms are tossed around it’s easy to get lost in the terminology.

Each syndrome has its own set of symptoms and circumstances such as whether or not heredity is involved, which part of the brain the seizure originates from, the time of day seizures occur and severity of seizures. Neurologists study these factors along with test results and more to diagnose epilepsy and classify the seizures. A single seizure does not define epilepsy in an individual, epilepsy always involves multiple seizures.

A visit to a neurologist involves describing the seizures, when and how they occur, how often, what it feels like before, during and after, answering questions about family histories, a reflex exam and more. The neurologist will order additional tests including an EEG to measure the brain wave patterns. Once the results are in and analyzed, a diagnosis of epilepsy may be made. If so, the neurologist will likely prescribe medication and schedule follow up appointments.

My best advice is to write down the diagnosis. You may think you’ll remember it but as you research epilepsy, you’ll find that it’s easy to mix up terms such as tonic and myoclonic. When you have a specific term written down in front of you it makes it easier to focus on the appropriate syndrome. To this day, I still get confused as to the name of my exact diagnosis, is it tonic or tonic clonic? I’d have to read up on each to see what matches my symptoms.

Now that you have an idea of how to define epilepsy, don’t let epilepsy define you. Chances are good that together with your neurologists you can get your epilepsy under control.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


+ 2 = five