4 Facts We Want You to Know About Epilepsy

Feb 12, 2024
4 Facts We Want You to Know About Epilepsy
One out of every 100 Americans has had a seizure, and many went on to develop epilepsy. Despite how common epilepsy is, there’s a fair amount of misinformation swirling around, and we want to clear the air.

Despite the fact that 3.4 million people in the United States have epilepsy, most of the information the uninitiated rely on comes from movie depictions of someone writhing on the floor, eyes rolled back, having a seizure. 

While there may be some truth in these Hollywood betrayals for some, it’s certainly not the complete picture.

Here at Gill Neuroscience, board-certified neurologist Dr. Paul Gill specializes in neurological conditions like epilepsy, and our team has worked with scores of patients who have this seizure disorder. 

Below, we dive into some basics about epilepsy and four interesting facts about this fairly common condition.

Epilepsy by the numbers

The first point we want to get across about epilepsy and seizure disorders is that 1 out of every 100 Americans has had a seizure, many of whom went on to be diagnosed with epilepsy.

In fact, half of people who have a seizure without an obvious driver (alcohol withdrawal, for example) go on to have another seizure within six months. And of those who have two seizures, there’s an 80% chance of more.

We diagnose most cases of epilepsy before the age of 10 and after the age of 55 — a time when people are dealing with more neurological conditions like strokes, which can lead to epilepsy.

What we know about epilepsy

Now that we’ve provided a landscape of epilepsy in terms of numbers, let’s dive into some key pieces of information about this neurological condition.

Epilepsy is an electrical issue in the brain

Under normal circumstances, your brain constantly produces small, rhythmic electrical pulses that travel along a network of neurons and neurotransmitters.

A seizure occurs when there’s a surge of electrical activity, and a group of neurons is signaling all at once, which in layman's terms can overload your brain's circuitry and lead to seizures. 

The cause is unknown in half the cases of epilepsy

In about half of cases of epilepsy, no matter what age, we don't know why the seizure disorder developed. In the other half of cases, epilepsy can be traced back to:

  • Brain trauma
  • Genetics
  • Congenital issues, such as low birth weight or lack of oxygen during delivery
  • Birth defects
  • Brain infections
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Brain tumors
  • Strokes
  • Substance use disorders

For people who develop epilepsy later in life, stroke is the most common cause.

Not all seizures are the same

Seizures can involve your whole brain or only parts of your brain and lead to different symptoms. While the scenario that we described above — someone falling to the floor and jerking — does take place, it’s not the only way epilepsy presents itself. 

Some people lose consciousness during a seizure while others have partial awareness. Some people have seizures during which they appear to space out and not be aware of their surroundings. There’s no shaking or jerking movements.

Seizures can also include sensory side effects in which a person can hear, taste, and smell things that aren’t there. Or the effects can be emotional ones — a flood of happiness or anger.

The bottomline is that seizures are very complex and can take many different forms.

There are solutions for epilepsy

As specialists in this area, we want you to know that you have options when it comes to controlling epilepsy. After figuring out the nature of your seizure disorder, we come up with a plan that might include:

  • Medications
  • Vagus nerve stimulation
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Trigger management plans
  • Surgery

If you have questions about epilepsy and you’d like to learn more, we’re here to help. To get started, please call our office in Houston, Texas, at 832-912-7777, or use our online request form to schedule an appointment.