Photosensitivity and Seizures
If you are a senior citizen, you can probably remember a time when there were no reliable treatments for epilepsy. People did not understand why seizures happened and they were afraid of them. You may remember, as a child, that families often sent people with seizures off to institutions, or kept them at home, isolated from others. And you may have heard it whispered (incorrectly) that epilepsy is a form of mental illness. Find out more about how perceptions have changed.
Seizures in Later Life
Epilepsy in the Elderly
Currently affects about 300,000 seniors nationwide; most rapidly growing population group with epilepsy.
Causes include after-effects of stroke, tumor, or cardiovascular events.
Poses more difficult problems in treatment because of age-related issues and use of other medications.
Increases risk of falls, broken bones, loss of independence.
Epilepsy is a functional disorder of the brain, a kind of occasional glitch in the amazing electrical system which controls everything we feel and do. These brief malfunctions (which are called seizures) may temporarily block awareness. They can also cause uncontrollable shaking, convulsions, confusion, or affect the senses.
Anyone at any age can have a seizure if the brain is stressed sufficiently by injury or disease. A single seizure isn't epilepsy, although the symptoms are the same. Epilepsy is the name given to seizures that occur more than once because of an underlying condition in the brain.
Although there are always exceptions, senior citizens with epilepsy who are otherwise in good health and whose mental abilities are unaffected can usually continue to live independently. Families may find this idea difficult to accept. With the best of intentions, they often become overprotective, making an older relative more dependent than is necessary.
Seizure causes are identifiable for about 50 percent of seniors, but just as in younger people, the types of seizures vary. Treatment in seniors, often made more difficult because of age-related issues and other medications, varies, although medication and surgery are the most common forms of treatment.