Epilepsy is a condition that causes repeated seizures due to faulty signals produced by brain cells. These signals create bursts of electrical activity in the brain, which cause seizures to occur. Different types of epilepsy are categorized by the type of seizure they cause; the two main types are focal onset seizures (which start in a particular area on one side of your brain) and generalized onset seizures (which affect both sides of the brain at once).

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

Typically, people are diagnosed with epilepsy if they experience two or more seizures that are not associated with a medical condition. There are a wide variety of potential seizure triggers for someone with epilepsy, such as:

  • Flashing lights and patterns
  • Stress
  • Overexertion
  • Illness
  • Certain foods, such as caffeine or alcohol
  • Certain medications
  • Hormonal changes
  • Disrupted or insufficient sleep

Seizures can occur in many different ways and may not always be easy to identify. While some may be characterized by symptoms such as sudden jerking movements or an increased heart rate, others may involve confusion, a temporary loss of consciousness, or changes in your senses (such as a strange taste or smell). Primary symptoms of seizures can even include sudden fear or anxiety, an upset stomach, or staring into space.

How is epilepsy treated?

Treatment for epilepsy may include medication, an altered diet, and/or surgery. Anti-seizure medication helps with controlling seizures in most cases, but the same drugs may not work as well for everyone; your doctor may prescribe one or more medications to see what works best for you. Additionally, diets that are high in fat and low in carbohydrates (such as the ketogenic diet) are often recommended for people with epilepsy.

If two or more anti-seizure medications fail to provide relief, and if your seizures are debilitating, you may be a candidate for epilepsy surgery. These procedures may focus on removing abnormal brain tissue, cutting nerve fiber bundles that connect areas of the brain, or implanting neuromodulation devices that reduce the frequency of your seizures through controlled electrical impulses.

If you’re experiencing seizures, it’s important for you to visit a neurologist as soon as possible to determine their underlying cause and find an effective approach to treatment. You can schedule an appointment with a Queens NYC epilepsy doctor at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Department of Neurology by emailing neuro@jhmc.org.