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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes recurring seizures. An abnormal area in your brain sometimes sends bursts of electrical activity that cause your seizures. A birth defect, tumor, stroke, dementia, injury, or infection may cause epilepsy. The cause of your epilepsy may not be known. If your seizures are not controlled, epilepsy may become life-threatening.
How is epilepsy diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your health conditions and what medicines you take. Tell him when your seizures occurred and how often. Your healthcare provider will need a detailed description of your seizure. If possible, bring someone who has seen your seizure with you to your visit. You may need any of the following:
- An EEG records the electrical activity of your brain. It is used to find changes in the normal patterns of your brain activity.
- A CT scan or an MRI takes pictures of your brain to check for abnormal areas. You may be given contrast liquid to help the pictures show up better. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have anything metal in or on your body.
How is epilepsy treated?
The goal of treatment is to try to stop your seizures completely. You may need any of the following:
- Medicines will help control your seizures. You may need medicine daily to prevent seizures or during a seizure to stop it. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your healthcare provider.
- Surgery may help reduce how often you have seizures if medicine does not help. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about surgery for epilepsy.
What do I need to know about epilepsy?
- Take your medicine every day at the same time to prevent seizures and side effects. Set an alarm to help remind you to take your medicine every day.
- Keep a seizure diary to help you find your triggers and avoid them. Write down the dates of your seizures, where you were, and what you were doing. Include how you felt before and after. Possible triggers include illness, lack of sleep, hormonal changes, alcohol, drugs, lights, or stress.
- Manage your stress. Stress can be a trigger for epilepsy. Exercise daily and get plenty of sleep. Illness can be a form of stress. Eat a variety of healthy foods and drink plenty of liquids during an illness. Talk to your healthcare provider about other ways to manage stress.
- Create a care plan. Tell family, friends, and coworkers about your epilepsy. Give them instructions that tell them how they can keep you safe if you have a seizure.
- Find support. You may be referred to a psychologist or social worker. Ask your healthcare provider about support groups for people with epilepsy.
- Ask what safety precautions you should take. Talk with your healthcare provider about driving, swimming, and bathing.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet or carry a card that says you have epilepsy. Ask your healthcare provider where to get these items.
How can others keep me safe if I have an epileptic seizure?
Give the following instructions to family, friends, and coworkers:
- Do not panic.
- Do not hold me down or put anything in my mouth.
- Gently guide me to the floor or a soft surface.
- Place me on my side to help prevent me from swallowing saliva or vomit.
- Protect me from injury. Remove sharp or hard objects from the area surrounding me, or cushion my head.
- Loosen my clothing around the head and neck.
- Time how long my seizure lasts. Call 911 if my seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or if I have a second seizure.
- Stay with me until my seizure ends. Let me rest until I am fully awake.
- Perform CPR if I stop breathing or you cannot feel my pulse.
- Do not give me anything to eat or drink until I am fully awake.
Call 911 for any of the following:
- Your seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
- You have trouble breathing.
- You have a seizure and are diabetic or pregnant.
- You have a seizure in water.
When should I seek immediate care?
- You have a second seizure that happens within 24 hours of your first.
- You are injured during a seizure.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- You feel you are not able to cope with your condition.
- Your seizures happen more often.
- After your seizures you are confused longer than you usually are.
- You are planning to get pregnant or are currently pregnant.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.
The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.