Why did epilepsy happen to me?

That's hard to say. Often, the doctors can't come up with a reason. Some things that can lead to epilepsy are: problems in development before birth, severe infections that involve the brain, a severe head injury, certain genetic factors. But that doesn't mean that your epilepsy was caused by any of these things.

Will I always have it?

That depends. Some people find that seizures go into remission after a few years. Others will continue to have seizures unless they take meds to prevent them.

Is there a cure for epilepsy?

Not yet. Medications don't cure epilepsy the way an antibiotic can cure an infection. They only work if they're taken regularly. That doesn't mean you'll have to take them for the rest of your life. After a while you and your doctor may decide that slowly discontinuing your meds is worth a try. But that's something only your doctor can advise you about.

I take epilepsy meds and others, too. Sometimes it's hard to remember what I've taken.

Time to get organized. That's your best bet to keep track of medication. You could get a watch or a pillbox, or even a PDA with an alarm and set it for each time you have to take a pill.

Is there any other way to treat epilepsy?

Surgery to remove a small area of the brain may work for some people. Brain stimulation via a large nerve in your neck (vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS, therapy) may help. There's also a diet (lots of fat, hardly any carbs--forget the pizza and the bread--and no sugar) that helps little kids with seizures. But it's not a do-it-yourself diet. It's called the ketogenic diet. It's serious medicine and you have to be really disciplined to make it work.

Symptoms of Seizures

Simple Partial Seizures

  • Jamais vu (familiar things suddenly seem unfamiliar)
  • Trembling that moves up one side of the body
  • Déjà vu (unfamiliar things seem familiar)
  • Out of body experiences
  • Sudden shifts in mood
  • Unexplained anger or fear
  • Disturbed speech

Complex Partial Seizures

  • Lip smacking
  • Swallowing
  • Picking at clothes
  • Wandering
  • Lack of response to others
  • Repeated phrases
  • Senseless, clumsy movements
  • Lost time
  • Disrobing
  • Being briefly unaware of danger or pain

Generalized Seizures

  • Brief staring
  • Sudden muscle contractions
  • Sudden falls
  • Convulsions
Reviewed by: Joseph I. Sirven, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN on 3/2014
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