Senior Moment …
or Something Else?
Epilepsy Rates Rising Among Seniors
When seniors experience a sign of epilepsy, they may mistakenly label it a “senior moment” or think that their symptoms are caused by aging. That’s because epilepsy has traditionally been considered a disorder that begins in youth.
“But physicians now know that people in their 60s, 70s and 80s are as likely to begin having seizures as children. In fact, epilepsy rates among older Americans are increasing faster than rates in any other age group,” says Anthony Murro, MD
, a neurologist and epileptologist at Georgia Regents Neuroscience Center.
A Range of Symptoms
The symptoms of epilepsy can vary considerably and may include:
- Temporary confusion
- A staring spell
- Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms or legs
- Loss of consciousness or awareness
The symptoms usually last only a minute or two, but it often takes older people longer to recover. “Although having these symptoms certainly does not mean you have epilepsy, you should see your physician if you experience them,” says Dr. Murro. “Undiagnosed epilepsy can increase the risk of falls and broken bones in seniors.”
What Causes Epilepsy in Seniors?
Epilepsy is caused by a glitch in the brain’s electrical system. In seniors, the causes are often directly related to physical changes associated with aging. “These include stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, head injuries, brain tumors, brain surgery and infections affecting the brain. High blood pressure, heart disease and chronic alcoholism are also risk factors in seniors,” Dr. Murro says. Fortunately, the disorder can generally be controlled with medications or surgery.
Expert Epilepsy Care … Right Here in Augusta
Georgia Regents operates the only Epilepsy Center
in the area. This regional referral center offers:
- The area’s only epileptologists
- An Epilepsy Monitoring Unit to diagnose epilepsy and pinpoint its site of origin
- The full range of epilepsy treatments including vagal nerve stimulation and epilepsy surgeries
- Pharmacists who specialize in antiepileptic medications
- Nurse clinicians who educate patients and answer questions