Epilepsy is a disorder, not a disease as many have long thought. Research is under way at this time to find the common pathways that cause epilepsy. Long misunderstood, those with this disorder have often been discriminated against at school, work and in social circles. An estimated 500 million people worldwide have epilepsy, which manifests itself in seizures. There are different types of seizures, some of which are so small they aren’t noticed by others and barely noticed by those who have the disorder. Most of us are familiar with the grand mal type of seizure after which the person loses consciousness.
Is epilepsy common in seniors?
Common causes of epilepsy in older adults and seniors can include:
- A head injury
- Neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
- Brain tumours
- Auto immune disorders including lupus, Chrohn’s disease and celiac disese
- Diseases which affect the blood vessels in the brain, such as an aneurysm or a stroke
- Alcoholism and substance abuse
Diagnosing epilepsy in seniors can be difficult. Other conditions can masquerade as epilepsy. Cardiac conditions, vertigo, migraines and medication side effects can be confused with seizures or seizure-like activity. Infections, dehydration and psychiatric illnesses can also cause seizures which are totally unrelated to this disorder.
Anti-epileptic drugs can can be effective in treating seizures in older adults. As those with the disorder age, smaller amounts of medication may be enough, since sensitivity to medication increases with age. Since many seniors take multiple medications it’s important that interactions between them are avoided. Some medications for epilepsy may also cause a loss of bone density which can lead to falls. For older adults who experience seizures it is important that they stay healthy. Eat well, maintain an active lifestyle and get adequate sleep. Try to maintain ties with your friends, family and community support.
March 26th is Purple Day. It is an international effort dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy worldwide. To learn more about Purple Day and how to get involved, click here.