What is epilepsy?
Epilepsies are disorders that cause seizures. Seizures are disruption of the electrical communication in the brain. Without treatment, serious complications can occur including permanent or life threatening brain damage or trauma suffered during a seizure. Provoked seizures result from an acute symptomatic condition such as a stroke, infection, or electrolyte disturbance. Unprovoked seizures have an unknown cause.
There are many different types of seizures. Focal (partial) seizures can be simple or complex depending on whether or not the patient loses consciousness during the seizure. Generalized seizures can be classified as absence, tonic, atonic, clonic, myoclonic, or tonic-clonic.
Epilepsy can be further broken down into syndromes based on the type of seizures, age when the patient first had a seizure, genetic components, and which part of the brain is involved. Classifying the epilepsy syndrome may help determine what type of treatment may be effective. Many different syndromes exist, with unique presentations and treatment outcomes.
For example, infantile spasms (also known as West syndrome) usually occur between 3 and 10 months of age. The spasms may have very noticeable movement or just a mild twitch. Drug treatment is necessary to control the seizures, and hopefully to stop them altogether. Even with medication, developments of another epileptic syndrome or intellectual disability are possible.
Another severe type of epilepsy, Dravet Syndrome (also called severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy), causes several seizure types that start in infancy and are difficult to treat. Dravet Syndrome is caused by a genetic defect in the SCN1A gene. In children with Dravet, repeated seizures over time cause disability. In Dravet, seizures may be triggered by temperature changes, but can occur without a known trigger.
How common is epilepsy?
There are 150,000 people who are diagnosed with epilepsy every year. In the United States, 3.4
million people have epilepsy.
Infantile spasms is estimated to occur in 2 to 3 per 10,000 live births, and it is slightly more
common in males, with 60% of the cases. It affects approximately 2,500 children in the United States
every year. 2
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1 “About Epilepsy: The Basics.” Epilepsy Foundation, 2017, www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics. Accessed 22 February 2018.
2 Go, Cristina Y, and O Carter Snead. “Infantile Spasms.” National Organization for Rare Disorders, 2017, rarediseases.org/physician-guide/infantile-spasms/. Accessed 22 February 2018.
What are the symptoms of epilepsy? 1
Epilepsy symptoms vary by diagnosis and differ person to person, even with the same diagnosis. Below are some general symptoms many seizures share.
- Temporary confusion; staring
- Tingling or dizziness
- Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
- Repetitive motions
- Muscle stiffness; loss of muscle control
- Loss of consciousness or awareness; unresponsiveness
- Emotional changes, such as fear, anxiety, or déjà vu
- Loss of bowel or bladder function
- Change in senses (taste, smell, sight, hearing, touch)
- Biting of the tongue
How is it diagnosed?1
- A brain wave test (electroencephalogram, EEG) to look for changes in the brain waves
- Blood tests to look for any medical disorders
- CT scan or MRI to look for any abnormal areas in the brain, such as a tumor
1 “Epilepsy | MedlinePlus.” MedlinePlus Trusted Health Information for You, 2017, medlineplus.gov/epilepsy.html. Accessed 22 February 2018.
EpilepsyThe following specialty medications are available at Accredo, a specialty pharmacy for Epilepsy.
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Financing Your Care
Financial assistance may be available to help with your medication costs, including manufacturer and community programs. Accredo specialists are available to help find a program that may work for you.
Community Financial Resources
Life-saving specialty medication can be expensive. Learn how the Accredo teams help individuals find ways to afford the medication they need to survive in this video.
There are many organizations that support research and advocacy for Epilepsy . See below for a few of those organizations.
- Epilepsy Foundation
- National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
- Intractable Childhood Epilepsy Alliance
Meet the Team
Accredo’s Epilepsy care team is dedicated to serving you and we understand the complexity of your condition. Our expert clinicians are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer any questions.
Why We Do It
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