My Journey: Seizures

After having Brayden in February 2010, I began getting migraines off and on but they didn’t start getting severe until late 2011. That is when I was having enough problems that I called my primary care provider hoping he could put me on a migraine medication that would help. Once we talked and I told him I was having to take 2000mg of Tylenol at a time to get any relief he immediately referred me to a neurologist. When I got to see my neurologist she got me a migraine medication called Imitrex. I ended up in the emergency room because I had a seizure after taking the second dose of my medication. We then decided we needed an EEG to figure out why I had a seizure since I never had one before. This is when things started to scare me. My EEG came back abnormal. It showed that I was having multiple seizures a day. After talking to my doctor I realized just how long they had occurred. I had been having them for years, even as a child. I’m sure you are thinking how did no one notice you having a seizure for years. Let me explain.

What is a seizure? A seizure is a surge of electrical activity in the brain. Having a seizure can affect how someone will act for a brief period of time during these surges. The electrical activity is caused by chemical changes that occur in the nerve cells. Each lobe of your brain controls different movements, behaviors and experiences. Because of this each type of seizure is has different symptoms and signs depending on what part of the brain it is affecting.

Having epilepsy,is what I have been diagnosed with is a central nervous system disorder which basically means my brain activity becomes abnormal causing a seizure. To be diagnosed with epilepsy you must have 2 unprovoked seizures. My first seizure that was caused from the migraine medication was a provoked. I was still having up to 100 unprovoked seizures a day.

Epilepsy can affect many parts of your life and it definitely did. I had been driving daily since I was 16 years old, once I was told about my seizure disorder I had to stop. You have to be seizure free for 6 months before you can drive. I went from one medication to taking multiple, and having regular doctor appointments and testing done. There were certain jobs and things I was advised to no longer do for my safety. There are multiple different types of seizures that are categorized into 3 categories.

1.Generalized onset seizures. These seizures affect both sides of your brain at the same time.
a. Tonic-clonic seizures
b. Absence seizures
c. Atonic seizures
2. Focal onset seizures. These seizures start in one area or group of cells on one side of the brain.
a. Focal onset aware seizures
b. Focal onset impaired seizures
3. Unknown onset seizures. This is when the beginning of a seizure is unknown. Also if it is not seen by anyone its considered a unknown seizure. Later it can be diagnosed to either of the others.

I have been diagnosed with generalized onset seizures. Absence seizures and tonic-clonic seizures. Absence seizures used to be called petit-mal seizures. They can be difficult to diagnose because they tend to look like you are daydreaming. When actually those “spells” are lapses in your awareness. There are two types of absence seizures which are typical and atypical seizures.

Typical absence seizures involve
• Suddenly dropping everything. Has a blank stare, looks similar to daydreaming. May even be in the middle of a sentence.
• Seizures generally last less than 10 seconds which is why it can be very difficult to diagnose.
• You may notice someone’s eyelids flutter when they are having a seizure.

Atypical absence seizures involve
• Seizures will last 20 seconds or longer.
• Seizures begin with staring blank spells, then will notice a change with their muscle movements.
• May experience some different symptoms from typical absence seizures.

Absence seizures are common in children and being diagnosed under 9 years old and having a good treatment plan have a good chance of growing out of it by time they turn 18 and will no longer need medication. Being diagnosed after 10 years old will mean you have a lower chance of growing out of it and needing medications for life. I remember beginning to deal with them around 10-11 years old. I was diagnosed when I was 22.

Tonic-clonic seizures are also known as convulsion or grand mal seizures. These are your “traditional” seizures. As Dr. Burke on Grey’s Anatomy said “..a wet fish on dry land..”. This is because of the jerking movements and muscle stiffness. These seizures may last 1-3 minutes. Someone with convulsion seizures like myself, which thankfully I have only had one may lose consciousness, lose control of bladder or bowels and may bite their cheek or tongue during their seizure.

What could have caused my epilepsy? Epilepsy can be caused by many different factors. The brain can be a mysterious thing. Some of those factors include:
• Age
• Infection
• Head injury
• Stroke
• Brain tumor
• Genetics
• Structural changes of the brain

It’s also very important to figure out your triggers so you can help keep your seizures to a minimum. This may mean a lifestyle change. When you are first diagnosed it’s best to keep a seizure diary so that way when you do have a seizure you are able to keep track of all the details like the time, where you were, what you were doing that may have caused the seizure. Once you have some you may be able to figure out what is triggering them. Some of the triggers I have with my seizures are:
• Skipping medications
• Flashing lights
• Watching TV or movies in the dark
• Lack of sleep
• Stress (pseudoseizures)
• Menstrual cycle

There are also some risk factors to developing epilepsy. Scarring on the brain can cause the brain to have seizures. Sometimes there are no risk factors but you still develop epilepsy and the causes are unknown. Some of the risk factors include:
• Babies who are born small
• Bleeding in the brain
• Febrile seizures
• Autism spectrum disorder
• Illegal drugs
• Developmental disabilities
• Intellectual disabilites
• Family history

Important facts and statistics
• Epilepsy and seizure disorder is the same thing.
• Epilepsy is the 4th most common neurological disorder.
• 65 million people in the world have epilepsy
• 6 out of 10 people with epilepsy have a unknown cause.
• Approximately half of people who have a unknown seizure may have another within 6 months.
• You have a 80% chance of having more seizures if you have two seizures.
• Seizures caused by a injury are more likely to cause epilepsy.
For the past 8 years I was unsure as to why or what had caused me to have epilepsy. Just recently I found out my cousin also has the same kind of epilepsy as me. So it’s a possibility it could be genetic. I’ve always watched my kids to see if I notice any symptoms which thankfully so far I haven’t.


Disclaimer: I don’t own the rights to this picture. I am not a medical professional. If you are having a medical emergency contact 911 immediately. This blog is for informational purposes only. If you believe you may have a medical issue contact your local medical provider.

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