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What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder worldwide. It is a chronic disorder characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures that affect people of all genders, ages, races and ethnic backgrounds. A seizure is a temporary loss of neurologic control commonly described as a sudden loss of consciousness accompanied by convulsions. The most common type is epileptic seizures, where electrical signals in the brain become scrambled with sudden bursts of abnormal electrical activity throughout the brain. Seizures vary significantly from one person to another.
Typically, the brain continuously generates tiny electrical impulses in an orderly pattern. These impulses travel along neurons — the network of nerve cells in the brain — and throughout the whole body via chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. With epilepsy, the brain’s electrical rhythms become imbalanced, resulting in recurrent seizures. In patients with seizures, the normal electrical pattern is disrupted by sudden and synchronized bursts of electrical energy that may briefly affect their consciousness, movements or sensations.
An epilepsy diagnosis occurs if you have at least two unprovoked seizures separated in time by days (or one unprovoked seizure with the likelihood of more) that were not caused by some known and reversible medical condition like alcohol withdrawal or extremely low blood sugar. 


What is SUDEP?

The risk of sudden unexpected death due to epilepsy (SUDEP) affects roughly one in 1,000 adults with uncontrolled epilepsy. In children, SUDEP is seen in one in 4,500 with uncontrolled seizures.

Patients with three or more generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS) per year are at a 15-fold higher risk of SUDEP. You and your provider should discuss how to improve seizure control since a reduction in the frequency of GTCS would be expected to have a beneficial effect on risk.

Seizure freedom is the most significant modifiable risk factor in preventing SUDEP, particularly generalized/convulsive seizures. Other modifiable risk factors include adherence to prescribed anti-seizure medications, limiting alcohol intake, continuing to pursue further treatments, and avoiding known seizure triggers including getting enough sleep.

To learn more about SUDEP and to ensure that SUDEP gets the public awareness and research attention it deserves, the Epilepsy Foundation has launched the SUDEP Institute for patient education. Also, the patient can call the American Academy of Neurology (AAN)/American Epilepsy Society (AES) sponsored SUDEP 24/7 Helpline at 800.332.1000.

To schedule an appointment with an epilepsy specialist, call 234.867.6970.

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If your situation is an emergency, call 911.