Seizures occur when nerve cells in your body misfire. Types of seizures vary. Recurrent seizures from one of many chronic processes are considered epilepsy. However, seizures are not considered to be epilepsy if they occur only once or are correctable.
Signs and Symptoms
- Aura (before generalized seizures), including lethargy, depression, irritability, involuntary jerks of limbs, abdominal pains, pale complexion, headache, constipation, or diarrhea
- Loss of consciousness
- Total body muscle spasms
- Temporary cessation of breathing
- Bluish color of skin and mucous membranes
- Dilated pupils that do not react to light
- Bowel or bladder incontinence
- Increased pulse and blood pressure
- Increased salivation and sweating
- Deep coma, post-seizure confusion, and deep sleep
What Causes It?Seizures are caused by hyperexcitable nerve cells in the brain (cerebral cortex) that fire abnormally. No one knows why this happens. The conditions listed below are associated with seizure activity.
- Central nervous system infection (bacterial meningitis, encephalitis)
- Drug toxicity or withdrawal (for example, alcohol or illicit drug use)
- Genetic mutations
- Head trauma
- Electrolyte or metabolic abnormalities
- Drugs that lower the seizure threshold
- High fevers
- Brain abnormalities (for example, tumors, stroke)
- Low sugar and low calcium levels in the blood
What to Expect at Your Provider's OfficePrecipitating events (for example, head trauma) and risk factors (for example, family or personal history of seizures) are important factors to be discussed with your provider. It is also important to note how you felt before and after the seizure. Your provider will do blood tests for baseline values and an electroencephalogram (EEG) to help in your diagnosis.
Treatment OptionsThe goal of therapy is to stop the seizures, to minimize adverse drug effects, to prevent recurrences, and to help you readjust to your home life and work environment after a seizure.
Drug TherapiesYour health care provider will most likely prescribe medication to help control your seizures (approximately 30 to 70 percent of people who have a seizure will have a second seizure within one year). You may need to try several medications before you find one that works for you.
Complementary and Alternative TherapiesSome mild seizures may be controlled by alternative therapies.
- Diet: a high-fat, low-protein, low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diet may help control the frequency of seizures. Some studies have shown a connection with food allergies and seizures in children. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and aspartame.
- Taurine (500 mg three times per day): amino acid that has been shown in studies to inhibit seizures
- Folic acid (400 mcg per day): depleted during seizures and in some people with seizures, although higher doses than 400 mcg may actually precipitate some seizures. Should be taken with B12
- B12 (100 to 200 mcg per day)
- B6 (20 to 50 mg per kilogram of body weight): especially in children may help control seizures
- Magnesium: 500 to 750 mg per day (should be in a 1:1 ratio in persons taking calcium) for normal muscle and nervous system function
- Manganese (5 to 15 mg per day): depleted in people with epilepsy
- Zinc (30 mg per day): may be depleted by some medications
- Dimethylglycine (100 mg twice a day): may decrease medication requirements
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Teas should be made with 1 tsp. of herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers; 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day.
- Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata): to both prevent and treat seizures, may be effective without side effects, especially where stress is a precipitating factor. Dose is 30 drops three to four times per day.
- Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora): antispasmodic and calmative herb
- Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): spasmolytic, sedative
There have been few studies examining the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. Professional homeopaths, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for seizure disorders based on their knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type. In homeopathic terms, a person's constitution is his or her physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.
- Belladonna — for seizures that occur in individuals with a high fever
- Causticum — for individuals whose seizures may be triggered by receiving bad news or by feelings of sadness such as from grief; this remedy is most appropriate for individuals who tend to feel hopeless and fearful
- Cicuta — for individuals who develop seizures after a head injury
- Cuprum metallicum — for individuals whose seizures are accompanied by mental dullness; may be triggered by menstruation or vomiting
Chiropractic, osteopathic, or naturopathic manipulation may be helpful, especially in children or for seizures after head trauma.
Following UpDetermining the best dosage or drug combinations is an inexact science; your provider will monitor you until your seizures are under control.
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