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Health Team

Some Seizures Can Signal Epilepsy

Posted August 2, 2007

WRAL Health Team

— U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' recent seizure shines a light on a common but misunderstood condition – epilepsy. Health experts said the seizures can strike suddenly, but they can be managed.

"Most seizures do occur in the frontal lobe," said Dr. Isabelle Germano, a neurologist at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.

Germano said she can see signs of seizures in brain scans. They show up as jagged lines, then smooth ones followed by jagged lines. During a seizure, brain activity goes from normal into erratic spiking as the electrical signals spread across your brain, which can trigger a response in the body.

"Movement of the arms and or the legs and saliva coming out of the mouth, eyes rolling – those are typical signs of a seizure," Germano said.

Germano said one seizure is not necessarily a sign of epilepsy, but two or more may be a sign unless there is a known factor including fever, stroke or tumor.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, a cause for seizures is never identified in seven out of 10 people. The organization said between 5 percent and 10 percent of people will have one seizure during their lifetimes and, of those, 30 percent will develop epilepsy.

Seizures may not be deadly or very damaging, but repeated ones can affect the brain. Most can be managed with medicine.

"There are a lot of very well-known people including actors, CEOs, artists that take those medications and function perfectly well," Germano said.

Health experts said 40 million people worldwide have epilepsy.

3 Comments

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  • PSPro Aug 3, 2007

    LAST I REMEMBER IS THAT EPILEPSY IS A MEDICAL CONDITION. IT HAS BEEN TREATED WITH MEDICATION, (LIKE MINE), AND IT HAS ALSO HAS BEEN TREATED WITH SURGERY! I HAD 2 SEIZURES WHEN I WAS 17, AND I HAVE NOT HAD ONE SINCE. I ALSO TAKE MY MEDS EVERY DAY! SOME CHILDREN HAVE THEM, USUALLY FROM HIGH FEVERS. A CLOSE FRIEND STARTED HIS AFTER HE RAN THRU A SLIDING GLASS DOOR, HE LATER OUT GREW THEM. A NEUROLOGIST ONCE TOLD ME THAT BABIES THAT SUFFER TRAMATIC BIRTHS/DELIVERIES ARE MORE LIKELY TO SUFFER FROM SEIZURES/EPILEPSY. HEAD TRAUMA IS MORE THE COMMON CAUSE IN ADULTS. (LIKE MY MOTHERS). I HAVE SEEN MANY SEIZURES, MOST OF THEM FROM MY SISTER, WHO HAS A MILD FORM OF MENTAL RETARDATION, HER SEIZURES STARTED OUT AS "STARING SPELLS" AND PROGRESSED INTO GRAND MAL SEIZURES! I HAVE ALSO SEEN INMATES FAKE SEIZURES TO GET OUT OF JAIL/PRISON WHEN I WORKED FOR EMS. I THINK JUST TO GO TO THE ER TOO LOOK AT THE NURSES! CAN'T BLAME THEM!

  • Travised Aug 3, 2007

    I agree with the words "may be"; comming from a life long epileptic. I have known children who have only had 3 or 4 seizures over a 5 month span, then no more. This occured when the child was healthy.

    It's too complex of a picture to clearly define. Seizures, non epileptic can be caused by food alergies, toxins, withdrawl, even environment.

    As well the medications used to treat are just as drastic and the side effects they can produce. I've been on seven of them so far; fighting to stay off a "black flag" 8th medication that I have no reason to be put on.

    The description of seizure used is the "classic" symptoms. There are many more that a epileptic may show including increase in strength, "walking seizures" and the "post seizure" symptoms that most people have never seen.

    Repeated UNTREATED patients with seizures can have damage. That part of the article is very misleading. If the patient stops breathing +1 minute is where problems tend to develop, or head trauma.

  • TriangleMommy Aug 2, 2007

    Bad reporting strikes again, "Germano said one seizure is not necessarily a sign of epilepsy, but two or more may be a sign unless there is a known factor including fever, stroke or tumor."

    Epilespy IS the diagnosis after a person has had two seizures that were not caused by a medical condtion.