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Seizure Disorders

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

bulletAura (before generalized seizures), including lethargy, depression, irritability, involuntary jerks of limbs, abdominal pains, pale complexion, headache, constipation, or diarrhea
bulletLoss of consciousness
bulletTotal body muscle spasms
bulletTemporary cessation of breathing
bulletBluish color of skin and mucous membranes
bulletDilated pupils that do not react to light
bulletBowel or bladder incontinence
bulletIncreased pulse and blood pressure
bulletIncreased salivation and sweating
bulletDeep 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.

bulletCentral nervous system infection (bacterial meningitis, encephalitis)
bulletDrug toxicity or withdrawal (for example, alcohol or illicit drug use)
bulletGenetic mutations
bulletHead trauma
bulletElectrolyte or metabolic abnormalities
bulletDrugs that lower the seizure threshold
bulletHigh fevers
bulletBrain abnormalities (for example, tumors, stroke)
bulletLow sugar and low calcium levels in the blood

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Precipitating 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 Options

Treatment Plan

The goal of therapy is to stop seizures and to prevent recurrences. Diagnosing and treating any underlying condition is important at the outset. It also is helpful to identify and avoid anything that may be setting off the seizures, such as lack of sleep. Your provider will give you medicine to control the seizures. He or she will help you readjust to home life and work environment after a seizure.

Drug Therapies

Prescription

There are numerous possible drugs prescribed for seizures. The one you take will depend on the type of seizure you have. Fifty percent of people taking these medications experience side effects. Some of the side effects are gastrointestinal complaints, weight gain or loss, hair loss, depression, insomnia, dizziness, and headache.

bulletCarbamazepine—for tonic–clonic and focal-onset seizures
bulletClonazepam—for absence and myoclonal seizures
bulletLamotrigine—for focal onset seizures and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome

Over the Counter

N/A

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Some mild seizures may be controlled by alternative therapies.

Nutrition

bulletDiet: 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.
bulletTaurine (500 mg three times per day): amino acid that has been shown in studies to inhibit seizures
bulletFolic 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
bulletB12 (100 to 200 mcg per day)
bulletB6 (20 to 50 mg per kilogram of body weight): especially in children may help control seizures.
bulletMagnesium: 500 to 750 mg per day (should be in a 1:1 ratio in people taking calcium) for normal muscle and nervous system function
bulletManganese: (5 to 15 mg per day) depleted in people with epilepsy
bulletZinc (30 mg per day) may be depleted by some medications
bulletDimethyl glycine (100 mg twice a day): may decrease medication requirements

Herbs

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.

bulletPassionflower (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.
bulletSkullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora): antispasmodic and calmative herb
bulletValerian (Valeriana officinalis): spasmolytic, sedative

The above herbs may be used singly or in combination as 1 cup tea three times per day or 30 to 60 drops tincture three times per day. In addition, use milk thistle (Silybum marianum) to protect the liver from effects of medications (70 to 210 mg three times per day).

Homeopathy

Some of the most common remedies used for seizure disorders are listed below. Usually the dose is 12X to 30C every one to four hours until your symptoms get better.

bulletArtemesia vulgaris for convulsions after exertion or visual stimulation
bulletOenanthe for violent seizures, especially when they are worse during a woman's menstrual period or after a head injury
bulletBufo for convulsions accompanied by delayed development in children
bulletCicuta for violent seizures with arching of the back
bulletCuprum metallicum for seizures with mental dullness and/or difficulty breathing
bulletCausticum for seizures during menstrual periods or after a fright
bulletBelladonna, especially for convulsions followed by nausea

Physical Medicine

Chiropractic, osteopathic, or naturopathic manipulation may be helpful, especially in children or for seizures after head trauma.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture may be helpful with specific acupressure points that have been used to stop seizures.

Following Up

Determining the best dosage or drug combinations is an inexact science; your provider will monitor you until your seizures are under control.

Supporting Research

Adams RD, Victor M, Ropper AH. Principles of Neurology. 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 1997:313–341.

Bartram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. Dorset, England: Grace Publishers; 1995:170–171.

Fauci AS, Braunwald E, Isselbacher KJ et al, eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company; 1998:2311–2325.

Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C et al, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 1998:1128, 1135, 1204, 1219.

Morrison R. Desktop Guide to Keynotes and Confirmatory Symptoms. Albany, Calif: Hahnemann Clinic Publishing; 1993:46,76,111–114,124,146–147,276.

Murray MT. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, Calif: Prima Publishing; 1996:84.

Murray MT. The Healing Power of Herbs. 2nd ed. Rocklin, Calif: Prima Publishing; 1995:40,91.

Rowland LP. Merritt's Textbook of Neurology. 9th ed. Media, Pa: Williams & Wilkins; 1995:845–868.

Werback MR. Nutritional Influences on Illness. New Canaan, Conn: Keats Publishing, Inc; 1987:189–193.

Copyright © 2000 Integrative Medicine Communications

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.