Seizures happen when your brain cells, which communicate through electrical signals, send out the wrong signals. Having just one seizure does not mean you have epilepsy. Generally, several seizures are needed before there is a diagnosis of epilepsy.
Epilepsy can happen at any age, but it is most common in the elderly. Many children with epilepsy outgrow the condition. However, even mild seizures that happen more than once should be treated. Seizures can be very dangerous if they happen while you are driving, walking, or swimming, for example.
Seizures are classified in 2 main categories:
Partial seizures involve a part of the brain. They can be:
Generalized seizures involve much more or all of the brain. They can be:
Seizures are caused by overexcited nerve cells in the brain that fire abnormally. In about half of cases, the cause is not known. Some things that can cause seizures include:
Your doctor will take your medical history and ask about anything that may have caused your seizure, such as an injury to your head. Your doctor will also ask about risk factors, such as family or personal history of seizures. Be sure to tell your doctor how you felt before and after the seizure.
Your doctor will do blood tests and an electroencephalogram (EEG), which records the electrical activity in your brain. You may also have a computerized tomography (CT) scan, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, and a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.
The goal of therapy is to stop seizures, reduce any drug side effects, prevent seizures from coming back, and help you readjust to your home life and work after a seizure.
Your doctor will probably prescribe medication to help control your seizures. About 30% to 70% of people who have one seizure will have a second seizure within 1 year. You may need to try several medications or combinations before you find one that works for you. There are a number of drugs available to help treat seizures, including anticonvulsants (antiseizure drugs) and sedatives.
If medications do not work, ask your doctor about a procedure called vagus nerve stimulation.
You should always see a doctor if you or your child has a seizure. Taking certain supplements and changing one's diet may reduce the frequency of seizures. But the same supplements may increase the frequency of seizures in some people.
You should never take any supplements or prescription medication without your doctor's knowledge. Be sure to tell all of your doctors about any medications, herbs, and supplements you are using.
A ketogenic diet. A diet that is high in fat and low in protein and carbohydrates -- may help control the frequency of seizures. This type of diet is most commonly used in children, and seems to work better for children than adults. If you are on a ketogenic diet, your doctor should monitor you both for side effects and effectiveness. You may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements, because this diet is very restricted. DO NOT attempt a ketogenic diet on your own. Work with your physician to make sure you are doing it safely.
Some studies have shown a connection between food allergies and seizures in some children. But the evidence is not clear. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and any supplements that have stimulating effects. A holistically-oriented health care provider may help you identify possible food allergies.
Some supplements may make certain antiseizure medications less effective. Ask your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements.
Herbs are a way to strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your health care provider to diagnose your problem before starting treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, or teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. (5 g) herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Many of the herbs used to treat seizures have sedative effects, and they interact with other herbs, supplements, and prescription medications. Take these herbs only under a doctor's supervision. It is important for a health care professional to monitor side effects and interactions. Most of these herbs have been used traditionally for seizures, but lack scientific evidence showing they work.
DO NOT take the following herbs:
Avoid these essential oils:
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. Professional homeopaths, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for seizure disorders based on their knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.
Chiropractic, osteopathic, or naturopathic manipulation may help, especially in children, or for seizures after head trauma.
In some cases, specific acupressure points may have been used to stop seizures. However, one study for people with severe epilepsy found they did not work. Chinese medical literature has examples of treating seizure disorders through traditional acupuncture, as well as scalp and auricular (ear) acupuncture or a combination of all these techniques. If you decide to have acupuncture, work with a qualified acupuncturist and let all your other providers know about your treatments.
Finding the right dosage or drug combinations for you may take some time. Your doctor will monitor you until your seizures are under control. People who have epilepsy are at high risk of developing depressive disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
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Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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