Said to be one of the oldest medical conditions known to humankind, epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by sudden, recurrent seizures. The seizures are the result of randomly occurring, usually brief, abnormal electrical surges from a group of nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.
Because different parts of the brain can be the site of these excessive electrical discharges, seizure types can vary depending on where in the brain the disturbance begins and how far it spreads. Types of seizures include convulsions, muscle spasms, loss of consciousness, and strange sensations, emotions and behavior.
Seizures also can vary in severity and frequency. Some people can experience only a few seizures during their lifetime while others can have several seizures in a single day.
Epilepsy is a disorder with many possible causes. Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of neuron activity – from illness to brain injury to abnormal brain development – can lead to seizures. Epilepsy can develop because of an abnormality in brain wiring, an imbalance of nerve signaling chemicals (called neurotransmitters) or some combination of these factors.
Having a seizure, however, does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. Many other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or hardening of the arteries that supply the brain, can cause a seizure.
Only when a person has had two or more seizures is epilepsy considered a possible cause. But, only through thorough evaluation and testing can epilepsy be properly diagnosed and effectively treated.
“Making an accurate diagnosis is crucial to planning the correct treatment to control seizures,” said Melissa A. Carran, M.D., a neurologist at the Cooper Neurological Institute. “Inaccurate diagnosis and the inappropriate treatment that results is one reason why people sometimes keep having seizures,” Dr. Carran said.
Determining the precise diagnosis and treatment plan for each individual patient is the primary goal of Cooper’s Epilepsy Treatment Program. Providing long-term management of difficult seizure cases using multiple strategies, the program’s multi-disciplinary treatment team works cooperatively on the comprehensive evaluation and treatment of individuals who have poorly controlled epilepsy.
As the only program in South Jersey providing a full complement of medical and surgical treatment options, the Cooper Epilepsy Treatment Program offers patients clinical expertise, comprehensive services, advanced technologies, and expert medical management of complex seizure disorders.
Cooper University Hospital also is distinguished as the only hospital in South Jersey with a dedicated inpatient EEG Unit. The unit offers 24-hour video monitoring of the patient’s electrical brain activity to accurately diagnose seizures.
For more information about epilepsy programs and services at the Cooper Neurological Institute, call 1.800.826.6737.