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Study Shows Some Seizures Can Cause Brain Damage

T. PAUL, MN -- Jan. 21, 1999 -- A new patient study, published in the current issue of the journal Neurology, indicates that seizure activity originating in a specific location of the brain causes the region to become irreversibly damaged.

Researchers studied 35 patients with uncontrolled temporal lobe epilepsy whose seizures originate in the hippocampus (an area within the brain's temporal lobe that controls memory and learning).

"We found that uncontrolled seizures originating in the hippocampus cause the hippocampus to shrink," said study author and neurologist William Theodore, MD, of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. "Brain damage to the hippocampus could affect memory or learning."

On average, patients in the study were 35 years old and had epilepsy for 23 years. Those living with uncontrolled epilepsy the longest had the smallest hippocampus.

"A person living with uncontrolled epilepsy for 23 years may have as much as a 15 percent reduction in hippocampal volume compared to a person diagnosed with epilepsy for one year," Theodore said. "Patients may prevent brain damage by properly treating their seizures early after the onset of epilepsy.

"Most importantly, if medication is not controlling seizures, patients should seek other treatment options such as surgery."

To measure the volume of each patient's hippocampus, researchers used a 3-D magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique. Volume of the hippocampus in which seizures originate was compared to the volume of the same individual's healthy hippocampus located on the opposite side of the brain.

Not all patients will necessarily develop damage to the hippocampus, Theodore explained. "It may take more than 20 years for brain damage to develop. We don't want to alarm anyone, but we do want to emphasise the importance of thorough, early treatment for seizures."

Temporal lobe epilepsy can cause a variety of symptoms. With such a seizure a patient can experience a sudden loss of responsiveness while appearing to stare motionlessly, sudden and unprovoked sense of fear, strong sense of an unpleasant odour, déjà vu, moaning or lip smacking.

Epilepsy affects 2.5 million Americans and encompasses more than 40 neurological conditions that share a common symptom -- seizures.

Thanks to The Doctor's Guide to the Internet™ for the article


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