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Causes and Symptoms of Epilepsy in Adults

Causes and Symptoms of Epilepsy in Adults

Posted On: August 14, 2020

Do you suffer from epilepsy? In most cases, epilepsy has been associated with children, but it is also true it does affect adults. You’re not alone since nearly 3 million adults in the U.S. do too.

In this article, discover the causes and symptoms of epilepsy in adults.

What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder where your brain activity becomes abnormal. This abnormal brain activity can cause periods of unusual behavior or seizures, loss of awareness, or sensations.

It can occur in any age, gender, ethnic background, or race. The symptoms of epilepsy are different from person to person. Some experience staring blankly, when others twitch their arms and legs.

If you experience a seizure it doesn’t mean you have epilepsy. Surgeries and medications can keep seizures under control for many.

Symptoms of Epilepsy in Adults

Epilepsy symptoms in adults can be caused by what’s known as focal epilepsy (partial epilepsy). This type of epilepsy causes local seizures that start in one part of the brain but spread to other parts.

There are 2 types of seizures caused by focal epilepsy:

  • Complex partial seizures
  • Simple partial seizures

Complex partial seizures (psychomotor attacks), start where you experience what’s known as an aura. It can be a feeling of anxiety, smell, or odd sensation in the stomach.

It can also be other odd sensations that others don’t notice. This can then lead to a loss of consciousness and a blank feeling. At this point, others will notice you’re not responding.

You might do repetitive movements such as moving your mouth or picking at your clothing. After the attack, many don’t remember what happened.

The other type of epilepsy is what’s known as generalized epilepsy.

The 2 types of seizures caused by generalized epilepsy are:

  • Grand mal seizures
  • Petit mal seizures

Grand mal seizures are the most dangerous and severe seizures. In the first phase (tonic phase) of these seizures, you’ll lose consciousness and become stiff. In the next phase (clonic phase), you’ll begin jerking, possibly violently.

After the second phase, they usually stop on their own. If the seizure continues without stopping, it’s known as status epilepticus.

Status epilepticus requires immediate medical treatment so you don’t wind up dying or with brain damage. Whether your seizures are minimal or serious, you’ll want to seek medical help from a neurological specialist to run tests.

How to Know If It’s Epilepsy

If you or your loved one develops epilepsy later in life it’s not always easy to tell. If you notice memory problems, dizziness, confusion, or numbness, that might not be a sign of getting older, but signs of epilepsy.

The sure way of knowing is to see a neurological specialist and have tests done.

How Is Epilepsy Diagnosed?

Your doctor will first find out if you experienced a seizure. Then, they’ll try to figure out what type of seizure you had.

Some tests your doctor can order include:

Each step can be different since each person is different when it comes to epilepsy and seizures. Brain imaging tests will show your doctor the electrical activity in your brain and what could be causing the seizures.

It’s normal for a doctor to perform a test a second time to ensure the accuracy of it.

If someone else was with you during the seizure, make sure they give your neurological specialist a description of what occurred.

Causes of Epilepsy in Adults

What causes epilepsy? There’s a known cause for just a few epileptic cases. If you experienced an injury to the brain that can cause it.

Some other causes can include:

  • Stroke or other brain damage
  • Brain tumors
  • Head injuries
  • Low oxygen during birth
  • Abnormal levels of blood sugar or sodium
  • Infections such as encephalitis

If you suffer from epilepsy, most of the time the cause is unknown.

Avoiding Triggers

Certain triggers are known to increase the number of seizures you can have.

Some of these triggers are:

  • Certain medications that can affect seizure medication
  • Heavy alcohol usage
  • Missing medications
  • Cocaine or other illicit drugs like ecstasy
  • Not enough sleep
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Illnesses that cause a fever
  • Flickering lights like in video games
  • Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar.

For some women, seizures tend to happen more around menstrual periods.

What Are the Treatments for Epilepsy?

While epilepsy can’t be cured with medications, seizures can be controlled.

The medication you receive depends on whether or not you’re trying to become pregnant, are pregnant, other medicines, age, and the type of epilepsy.

Your doctor might start you on a low dose of the medication and increase it if it doesn’t prevent seizures. Treatment normally doesn’t start after just one seizure.

Surgery is another option where a small part of your brain is removed that causes epilepsy. This is an option if your seizures occur in one area of your brain.

Vagal nerve stimulation is another option where a small generator is put under the skin right before your left collarbone. It reduces the number of seizures.

Complementary therapy, like aromatherapy, is an option as well. While it might not help prevent seizures, it’ll help relax you since stress is a known trigger.

Understanding Adult Epilepsy

While adult epilepsy can be hard to experience later on in life, there are treatment methods such as surgery, medication, and more to control your seizures.

Are you worried your seizure might be epilepsy? Contact us today to get started on a treatment plan made exclusively for you.

Dr Jochism

Dr. Sean Jochims, Neurologist

Dr. Sean Jochims graduated medical school with the prestigious Rick Wartgow Award for dedication to medicine. He also received Excellence in Teaching Awards as chief resident in neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

  • Medical School: Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Internship/Internal Medicine: Northwestern University
  • Clinical Neurophysiology Fellowship: Rush Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, Chicago
  • Participant at Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine
Board Certifications
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