Elizabeth B Walker - Neurologist and Clinical Neurophysiologist
Private Service, Neurology
Epilepsy is a condition where people have seizures or ‘fits’. Seizures may present in many forms but are due to bursts of electrical activity within the brain. The problem can be with the electricity of the brain on its own or due to some underlying structural lesion of the brain.
Anyone can have a seizure if the stimulus is great enough to exceed a threshold in the brain. Factors such as fever, changes in blood chemistry, anxiety, sleep deprivation or alcohol may influence the onset of a seizure. Although some disorders and traumas play a role in developing epilepsy most people who have epilepsy have no known reason.
A seizure may present as a convulsion, unusual body movement, a change in awareness or simply a blank stare. The person may be unconscious or completely unaware of what is happening. What type of symptoms people have depends on what part of the brain is involved.
The diagnosis of epilepsy is made on the basis of the history so it is useful when you come to clinic if someone who has witnessed an event can come with you. Depending on your symptoms and examination findings you may undergo an EEG test and/or an MRI of your brain to aid in the diagnosis and planning of treatment. Not everyone needs these tests and the doctor will talk with you about what is needed.
Epilepsy is usually treated with medication to prevent seizures. There will also be implications for driving if you are diagnosed with this condition, as it needs to be well controlled before you can drive. Your doctor will discuss this with you.
For more information visit www.epilepsy.org.nz
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This page was last updated at 12:10PM on April 27, 2021.