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Patients Can  Get Epilepsy Under Control

Posted: May 9, 2019

Just as there are many types and causes of epilepsy, there are many treatment options and patients diagnosed with the disease should know that they can be helped and can live a normal life, said NorthBay Healthcare neurologist Ruby Ali, M.D., in the latest #OurDocTalk chat on Facebook.

#OurDocTalk is a series of live video chats on the NorthBay Facebook page in which providers chat and answer common questions about various health issues.

Dr. Ali spent the half hour chat discussing epilepsy, its causes and treatment.

“Epilepsy is a disease process in which you have more than one unprovoked seizure,” she explained. There are certain things that can cause or provoke seizures such as high- or low-potassium levels and high- or low-glucose levels. In these situations, it is not considered epilepsy, she said. “However, if you have seizures that were not provoked by any abnormality and you have had multiple seizures, we consider that epilepsy.”

Symptoms of the disease can vary. Seizures including shaking of the body and losing consciousness are not the only symptoms that can accompany the disease. “Some people have seizures in which they stare off for a few seconds. Some people have seizures in which they see strange people, animals or objects,” she said. “Some people have behavioral abnormalities where they act strange or have certain automatisms where they stroke their arm or leg or start moving around in an abnormal way.” Others may speak strangely or say things they never would normally, she added.

Asked about the causes, Dr. Ali said epilepsy involves “electrical misfirings” in the brain.

“A seizure is an abnormal electrical loop or circuit going on inside the brain,” she said. “Normally, your neurons are synchronously working — they are working together — and in epilepsy they are asynchronous, there are abnormal loops of electricity.”

As for risk factors, Dr. Ali said epilepsy is often genetic or hereditary but can also develop in patients who have “structural abnormalities” caused by stroke or infections such as meningitis or encephalitis.

Epilepsy can affect anyone, regardless of age, she noted. But Dr. Ali said having the disease does not mean the patient cannot live a normal, happy life. “If the seizures are well controlled and maybe a patient has only one seizure every few years or even every year, there is no reason they can’t work or go to school and do a normal routine,” she said. “They will have to use some routine precautions … so that they don’t put themselves at risk when they have a seizure but otherwise, they can have a very normal life.”

The full chat can be viewed on Facebook at will be posted on YouTube soon.

The next #OurDocTalk chat will focus on hepatitis on May 31 at 3 p.m., featuring gastroenterologist Michael Krier, M.D.