November is National Epilepsy Awareness month. To commemorate the campaign, here are some insights into the latest neurotechnology developments can help people living with the condition as to help have better diagnostic tools to recognize when the condition has development.
Epilepsies are a spectrum of brain disorders ranging in severity. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. The epilepsies have many possible causes and there are several types of seizures. Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of neuron activity from illness to brain damage to abnormal brain development can lead to seizures. Epilepsy may develop because of an abnormality in brain wiring, an imbalance of nerve signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters, changes in important features of brain cells called channels, or some combination of these and other factors. Having a single seizure as the result of a high fever (called febrile seizure) or head injury does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. Only when a person has had two or more seizures is he or she considered to have epilepsy.
Epilepsy afflicts 2.5 million people in the U.S. and 50 million worldwide and is characterized by the occurrence of spontaneous seizures. For many people livingg with epilepsy, anticonvulsant medications can be given at sufficiently high doses to prevent seizures, but there are several side effects. For 20 to 40 percent of patients with epilepsy, medications are not effective and even after surgical removal of epilepsy-causing brain tissue, many people continue to experience spontaneous seizures. Despite the fact that seizures occur infrequently, people living with epilepsy experience persistent anxiety due to the possibility of a seizure occurring.
Epilepsy often is undiagnosed in the elderly. While many people think of epilepsy as a disease of children and young people, new onset epilepsy is actually more common in adults over the age of 65. Stroke is the leading cause of epilepsy among older people. Epilepsy can also be a result of a brain injury. In many instances, epilepsy may not be diagnosed until it has developed into recognizable seizure activity.
Neurotechnology devices have been and are currently being developed not just for the treatment of epilepsy but also as a diagnostic tool too. Vagus nerve stimulation, cortical stimulation as well as trigeminal nerve stimulation have all been developed to help people to manage their conditions. Also technologies such as EEG, MEG and ECoG are tools to improve the diagnosis of the condition.
Neurotech Network offers free resources and a directory of devices specifically for Epilepsy and Seizure Management. Check out our page here.