Epilepsy - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Epilepsy - Medical Malpractice

Epilepsy is a disorder in which a person has recurrent seizures as a primary event. A seizure can be partial and affect only a part of the body. It can also be generalized and results in loss of consciousness and bodily shaking or twitching. It can also represent a repetitive behavior originating in the brain.

Generalized seizures are those in which the entire brain is involved. It is also called a grand mal seizure. A person with a grand mal seizure usually has their eyes open and their body is stiff in the beginning. Then the body will shake all over in rhythmic movements. The person may or may not breathe much during the seizure but will breathe deeply afterward. The return to consciousness is often gradual and the person may urinate during the seizure. The person will be briefly confused after the seizure happens.

A partial or focal seizure involves only part of the brain. The symptoms involved occur differently depending on the part of the brain involved. It can involve an arm or hand or leg shaking or can involve smaller repetitive movements, including lip smacking and picking at clothing. The person may be confused during or after a partial seizure.

In a petit mal or absence seizure, the person has impairment of consciousness and often stares blankly. Repetitive blinking can occur or there can be other small movements. The seizures often last a few seconds but occur repetitively during the day. This is a type of seizures commonly seen in children.

The symptoms of epilepsy differ depending on the type of seizures seen. In some cases there is loss of consciousness and in others, there is complete consciousness. A partial seizure can degenerate into a generalized seizure and can be the pattern of seizures in some people, who essentially have a warning sign for a generalized seizure.

Epilepsy is diagnosed in several different ways. It can be diagnosed using a waking or sleep deprived electroencephalogram or EEG. This involves placing multiple electrodes on the scalp which can pick up brain waves and can detect spikes in brain wave activity or the presence of a full blown seizure. There is also a newer blood test for epilepsy.

The medications used in the prevention of epilepsy and seizures are called anti-epileptics. These work to control brain wave activity. Taking only one anti-epileptic medication will only block seizures in seven out of ten individuals. About eight out of ten will do well with more than one anti-epileptic medication. Not everyone gets complete control with even multiple medications for seizure.

There are many types of anti-seizure medications, called anti-epileptic drugs or AEDs. They do not treat all types of seizures so your doctor must decide which type of anti seizure medication to use. Sometimes a combination of medications must be utilized. Single medications are a bit better to use because they have fewer side effects than multiple medications.

The medication choices include phenytoin or Dilantin, commonly used for grand mal seizures. Carbamazepine is another medication used for seizures. Others that are commonly used include Zarontin, Trileptal, Luminal (Phenobarbital), which is often used for babies who have seizures, Mysoline, Topamax and Depakote. These are all medication used for the prevention of seizures but do not work as well to stop an active seizure. Benzodiazepines can be used for the stopping of a generalized seizure of which the most commonly used one is diazepam or Valium.

Second line medications used for seizure control when multiple medications are necessary include benzodiazepines like Klonopin, Felbatol, Neurontin, Lamictal and Keppra. Phenobarbital can be used as a second line agent in adults and Topamax can be a second line agent. There are numerous other drugs to choose from.

Of the first line agents, many can cause nausea, dizziness and tired feelings when first begun. These effects go away after the body adjusts to the medication. There can be liver enzyme elevations or problems with the blood with many of these first line agents. Blood tests will be done to manage and identify any problems you may have with the medications. The idea behind an antiseizure medication is to pick one that controls the seizures with the least amount of side effects.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here