According to the CDC, more than 3 million adults and almost 500,000 children are living with epilepsy. General practitioners typically face challenges when trying to manage the condition, because they have not received specialized training. Epilepsy is a complex condition that should be diagnosed and managed by a neurologist due to the various types of seizures, symptoms and underlying causes of the condition.
As an experienced pediatric neurologist, Dr. Yuval Shafrir is able to accurately diagnose and treat epilepsy. Dr. Shafrir is Board Certified in Neurology and has additional training, having completed an Epilepsy Fellowship, and he is Board Certified by The American Board of Clinical Neurophysiology. He has extensive experience in the treatment of both straightforward and very complicated cases. He remains active in the medical community by working with several organizations that perform research and clinical studies on epilepsy.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder that causes patients to live with continuous epileptic seizures. During these seizures, the brain function is altered, and a patient may experience a range of symptoms.
What are Some Symptoms of Epilepsy?
Being evaluated by Dr. Shafrir is the best way to determine if your symptoms are associated with epilepsy. Some of the more common signs are:
- Blank stares
- Twitching of the arms or legs
Types of Seizures
As part of his diagnosis, Dr. Shafrir categories the types of seizures that you experience as either generalized or focal. Generalized seizures involve disruptions on both sides of the brain and cause large muscle contractions, falls and unconsciousness. Generalized seizures are further broken down into absence, clonic, myoclonic, tonic-clonic, atonic and tonic. Focal seizures occur when a specific part of the brain is disrupted, and this accounts for more than half of epilepsy cases. People with focal seizures may progress to generalized seizures. Types of focal seizures are sensory, psychological, motor and autonomic, depending on the part of the brain that is affected.
What Causes Epilepsy?
Research into the underlying causes of epilepsy has been inconclusive, but some cases of epilepsy may be caused by:
- Abnormal growths in the brain
- Congenital abnormalities/birth defects
- Changes in metabolism
- Immune system disorders
Dr. Shafrir works with patients to determine the underlying cause of your epileptic seizures and develops an individualized treatment plan based on his findings. He reviews your medical history, perform a comprehensive neurological examination and asks about your symptoms to determine if the seizures are due to epilepsy or another neurological condition.
What Happens During an Epileptic Seizure?
Epileptic seizures are signs that the brain is experiencing some type of abnormality in electrical signals. This triggers the body to move in unpredictable ways, such as muscle spasms, convulsions, unusual sensations, changes in behavior, and unexplained emotions. Because many of these signs are subtle and imperceptible by a layperson, knowing when someone is having an epileptic seizure is crucial.
Seeking Medical Treatment for Epilepsy
Seizures are frightening for both patients and those around them when the seizures occur. Any type of seizure requires evaluation. The characteristics of epileptic seizures are:
- Last longer than five minutes
- Injuries caused by drastic body movements, falls, or convulsions
- Difficulty breathing or loss of consciousness during the seizure
Seizures are not to be taken lightly, and we encourage you to contact the Latimer Neurology Center for an appointment if you experience a seizure. Pregnant women and anyone with diabetes should be examined by Dr. Shafrir regardless of the type of seizure.
Treatment for Epilepsy
In many cases, anti-epileptic medications stop the occurrence of seizures or reduce the severity and frequency. When determining the treatment for epilepsy, Dr. Shafrir considers your overall health, the type of epilepsy, your medical history (including any co-occurring conditions) and other information that he garners during the appointment. With effective treatment by a qualified neurologist, you are able to live with the condition, possibly without medications.
Benefits of Working with an Epileptologist
An epileptologist is a type of neurologist with a special interest in treating epilepsy. In many cases, patients can consult with an epileptologist to begin treatment and then the primary physician monitors the symptoms. If symptoms begin to reappear or advance, the primary physician makes a referral back to the epileptologist. In other cases, patients with epilepsy may see an epilepsy specialist once or twice a year, as well as a primary physician. Epilepsy patients who are newly diagnosed with chronic conditions, who are pregnant or experiencing age-related hormone changes should always consult with their epileptologist to determine if the course of treatment needs to be adjusted.
Epilepsy and Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has dramatically increased in the past decade leading us to acquire extensive experience in this field. Children may exhibit characteristics such as an inability to adapt well to environmental change and unusual responses to sensory experiences. Children with ASD have difficulty paying attention, communicating, interacting socially and regulating their feelings. Also, students with ASD may engage in repetitive actions and have a preoccupation with objects. These symptoms can be treated by Dr. Shafrir.
We do not consider “autism” as a stand-alone diagnosis and will exhaust all possible causes for your child’s regression. Many children with autism go through a period of regression and if not evaluated and treated immediately will have irreversible damage to the brain. We are committed to a full medical evaluation of all children diagnosed with autism and have successfully treated these children and greatly improved the prognosis.
Schedule an Appointment at the Latimer Neurology Center
If you or your child are experiencing symptoms of epilepsy or other neurological conditions, call us at (202) 625-4898 to schedule an appointment. We are committed to respond immediately. We will see all new onset seizures within 48 hours of your call.