Epilepsy & Seizures

About one of every 100 Americans has had a single unprovoked seizure or has been diagnosed with epilepsy.

Seizures are caused by surges in electrical activity in the brain that cause brain cells to send abnormal signals to each other. These signals can then spin out of control, leading to changes in the way the body and mind behave. Seizures can be caused by a range of health issues and can happen without warning.

What are epilepsy and seizures?

Epilepsy is a chronic neurologic condition diagnosed after a person has two or more seizures that are not caused by another condition or injury. Seizures and epilepsy affect each person differently, sometimes in major ways, sometimes in very slight ways. Such variation makes it even more important to seek the care of epileptologists–neurologists specializing in epilepsy–who offer the most comprehensive approach and the broadest list of options for helping you live your best life.

Types of Epilepsy

Focal Epilepsies

Focal epilepsies that cause seizures arising from a specific part or lobe of the brain, such as frontal lobe epilepsy, temporal lobe epilepsy, parietal lobe epilepsy and occipital lobe epilepsy.

Refractory Epilepsy

Refractory epilepsy is the term given to seizures not controlled after trying two or three different medications. 

The American Academy of Neurology recommends people who have refractory epilepsy be seen at comprehensive facilities like ours where specialists can recommend individualized treatment options for controlling the seizures and improving other related issues.

Who has it?

About one third of people with epilepsy will have medication refractory seizures. We don’t understand why medication doesn’t stop the seizures in these, but we do know there are other treatments you can try.

What should I do?

Medication Refractory Epilepsy is best managed by specialists who have the advanced equipment needed to make a specific diagnosis and identify the best treatment options for you. This team can also help you manage other problems that can come along with epilepsy.

The Epilepsy Center at the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute has such a team, with many staff specifically trained in caring for people with epilepsy and seizures. Our team includes:

  • Neurologists
  • Neurologist extenders
  • Neurosurgeons
  • Nurses
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Radiologists
  • Social workers

Symptoms of Epilepsy

While every person’s experience is different, seizures and epilepsy can include:

  • Staring
  • Jerking movements of the arms and legs
  • Stiffening of the body
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Breathing problems, including stopping breathing
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Sudden falling for no apparent reason

Screening and Diagnosing Epilepsy

To diagnose epilepsy, we employ the most advanced neurodiagnostic tests, some of which can be done at home or at our convenient community-based centers.

Treating Epilepsy

Once we’ve determined the type of seizures you’re having and if it is epilepsy, the goal is to maximize your quality of life. To do that, we can use:

We have also created special programs to meet the individual needs of patients with epilepsy:

  • First Seizure Clinic. You must have a referral for an appointment. After you experience the initial seizure, our specialists offer rapid, accurate diagnosis, usually within two weeks of referral.
  • Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. At Hartford Hospital, we operate a specialized in-patient unit where we can record EEG during seizures to help make the most precise diagnosis. Stays last about a week so we can record continuous brain activity.

Driving with Epilepsy & Seizures

Driving gives us freedom and not being able to drive can have a huge impact on your life. You need to understand the safety issues and legal facts about driving with epilepsy and seizures.

Hartford HealthCare Epilepsy Center