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  • Leena Mirchandani

Seizure Stoppers

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “A seizure is a burst of uncontrolled electrical activity between brain cells (also called neurons or nerve cells) that causes temporary abnormalities in muscle tone or movements (stiffness, twitching or limpness), behaviors, sensations or states of awareness.” According to Tufts Medical Center, “Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by malfunctioning neurons – the brain’s nerve cells that send messages to the rest of the body with electric signals.” Epilepsy can be diagnosed by electroencephalograms (EEGs), Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or neurological testing. As stated by OSF Healthcare, seizures can have both short and long term dangers. In the moment, seizures can lead to falls and injury, because one loses consciousness or awareness almost instantaneously. In the long term, seizures can lead to memory problems, cognitive issues, anxiety, or depression.

Seizure stoppers are mechanisms and technologies used to stop and prevent seizures from occurring, some of which include oral medications, Vagus Nerve Stimulation, electronic devices, and surgeries. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 70% of epilepsy patients can control their seizures with medications or surgeries. Seizure stoppers is a broad umbrella, but they can be thought of in two different ways- treatment that actively stops a seizure in the moment and chronic treatment that can decrease the frequency of seizures overtime.

At the scene of a seizure, IV treatments including diazepam and lorazepam can be given. According to Dr. Howard E. LeWine, Chief Medical Editor of Harvard Health Publishing, seizures lasting more than five to ten minutes need to be stopped by intravenous medications provided by medical professionals.

The New England Journal of Medicine found that hand-held-auto-injectors (like epipens) could be used to stop seizures. Seizures could be treated both intravenously and intramuscularly, by the injection of seizure-stopping drugs called benzodiazepines. Intramuscular injections worked faster and better than intravenous injections meaning that this may be the beginning of at home treatment for seizure stopping. This can also be given intranasally or rectally.

Oral seizure medications are given “by mouth” and can decrease the frequency of seizures over a long period of time. Some older seizure medications include phenytoin, phenobarbital, valproic acid, and carbamazepine, whereas, some of the newer ones include levitceratem, lamotrigine, lacosamide, and oxcarbazepine. There is not much variation between the older and newer medications except for the fact that newer ones have less side effects. The effectiveness of oral medications relies heavily on the patient and their responsiveness to the medication. If various medications prove to be ineffective, then more severe treatments may be necessary.

Another medication that is prescribed to treat seizures (only in very rare and severe cases) is medical marijuana. This is only used to treat Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome which are very rare and severe. Some studies have found that this helps decrease the amount of these seizures in these patients overall.

The Vagus Nerve Stimulator is the “pacemaker of the brain.” By sending regular electrical pulses to the brain (through the vagus nerve), this simulator can prevent seizures. The vagus nerve is involuntary and sends information from the brain to other areas of the body. The mediation of the vagal nerve through the Vagus Nerve Stimulator, can work to send signals throughout the brain to decrease the frequency of seizures. This stimulator is autonomous and most of the time, those wearing it do not know it is operating. Sometimes, patients have auras before having a seizure so they can activate the Vagus Nerve Stimulator through a wand. This does not completely eliminate seizures from the lives of epileptic patients, but reduces the frequency of seizures up to 50%.

Seizures occur when, according to Science Daily, “Neurons in the brain start firing and signal to neighbouring neurons to fire as well, in a snowball effect that can affect consciousness or motor control.” A new neurotransmitter device, that is implanted in the brain, can ‘break’ the seizure, signalling the neurons to stop firing, thus ending the seizure.

The last resort option for seizure treatment is surgery. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Epilepsy surgery is a procedure that removes an area of the brain where seizures occur.” This is only considered after the ineffectiveness of at least two medications. Patients are required to go through thorough screenings before coming to the decision of this surgery. After a successful surgery, patients can live seizure and seizure medication free.

In conclusion, breakthroughs in new technologies are revolutionary and can better the lives of seizure patients!

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