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Epilepsy - What Happens

Concerns about mental health or intelligence continued...

A few, rare childhood epilepsy syndromes are exceptions to this in that they are typically associated with reduced intelligence, delayed physical and mental development, and other problems. These include infantile spasms (West syndrome), Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Rasmussen syndrome, among others. Tests, such as neuropsychological tests, can help your doctor find out if a problem in the brain is affecting your child's ability to reason, concentrate, solve problems, or remember.

Because epilepsy is often a lifelong (chronic) disease, it can be hard to understand how much your life will change. Some people may have feelings of despair, depression, or anxiety after hearing that they have epilepsy. In some studies, adults with epilepsy had a higher risk of suicide, especially if they had also been diagnosed with depression or another mental illness, and especially within 6 months of being diagnosed with epilepsy.1 For more information on depression, see the topic Depression.

If you or another adult friend or family member was just diagnosed with epilepsy or just started a new treatment for epilepsy, you may want to watch for suicidal thoughts or threats. For more information on what to watch for, see the topic Suicidal Thoughts or Threats.

Complications of seizures

Epileptic seizures themselves usually cause no harm—the danger lies in where you are or what you are doing when the seizure occurs. There is always a risk of head injury, broken bones, and other injuries from falling or from drowning if you are swimming or bathing at the time of the seizure. It can be dangerous to be operating machinery or driving when you have a seizure. You cannot swallow your tongue during seizures. But you can choke on food, vomit, or an object in your mouth.

Some seizures may place temporary but severe stress on the body and cause problems with the muscles, lungs, or heart. Choking, an abnormal heartbeat, or other problems may cause sudden death, though this is rare. Untreated seizures that become more severe or frequent may lead to these problems. One of the most dangerous complications of epilepsy is a prolonged seizure condition that can result in brain damage or death called status epilepticus.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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