Epilepsy and Seizures
Epilepsy is a lifelong condition that leads to frequent seizures. Although seizures only last a few seconds, they are dangerous because they cause you to lose control of your body. This temporary loss of control can threaten your independence, including the ability to work or live on your own. But there’s hope.
Sentara Epilepsy Center is a specialized Level 3 accredited center that delivers complete care for epilepsy and seizures, including an accurate diagnosis and the latest seizure medications. We deliver specialized care close to home so you can improve your quality of life.
For more information about the Sentara Epilepsy Center or to make an appointment, call us at 877-310-8713.
What Are Seizures?
Seizures happen when there is a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain. What happens during a seizure depends on where in the brain the seizure starts.
Your symptoms may include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Flashing lights
- Strange smells or tastes
- Numbness in your arms or legs
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Blurry vision
- Confusion or a blank stare
The Epilepsy Center at Sentara: Why Choose Us?
The Sentara Epilepsy Center has been caring for people with epilepsy since 1990. Sentara has the only Level 3 accredited Epilepsy Center in Hampton Roads. Our expertise draws people from all over southeastern Virginia and surrounding communities. Our focus on your individual needs helps you get lasting relief. Read more about the Sentara Epilepsy Center.
Highlights of our program include:
- Team approach: At Sentara, you receive care from epileptologists, who are neurologists with additional training (fellowships) in treating epilepsy. For diagnosing and treating more complex seizures, our team includes radiologists who specialize in brain imaging and neurosurgeons. We come together to deliver safe, effective care. Meet our epilepsy experts.
- Personalized treatments: Tailoring care to meet your unique needs
helpsyou achieve exceptional results. Many people get better with one or more medications. Our expertise lies in selecting the combination of medications that helpsyou gain control of seizures while minimizing unpleasant side effects. Read more about treatments for epilepsy.
- Exceptional evaluation capabilities: If the seizures do not respond medications you are in good hands. We are the only program in southeastern Virginia using around-the-clock inpatient monitoring to determine the type of seizure and where in the brain it starts. We use this information to plan additional treatments including surgery when needed. Find out more about epilepsy evaluation.
Types of Seizures
Seizures fall into three groups:
- Focal onset: When a seizure is
focalonset, it begins on one side of the brain. Symptoms include jerking motions or muscle weakness.
- General onset: These seizures affect both sides of the brain. The symptoms of general onset seizures include twitching muscles and staring spells.
- Unknown onset: If a seizure is
unknownonset, it may occur without anyone seeing it, such as when you are asleep. This term also describes seizures with no known starting point. Symptoms of unknown onset seizures include an inability to move or repetitive movements such as head nodding.
While seizures are commonly associated with epilepsy, they may actually be a symptom of another condition, such as a brain tumor or heart problem. Our expert team will make sure you get the accurate diagnosis you deserve.
When symptoms are not clear-cut, we coordinate additional testing, which may include:
- An evaluation of brain activity (electroencephalogram or EEG)
- Blood tests or imaging scans to rule out other health problems
- Overnight evaluation in our inpatient epilepsy monitoring unit
When we rule out epilepsy as a diagnosis, we refer you to other Sentara specialists in areas such as neurology or cardiology.
- Focal onset: When a seizure is
There's no cure for epilepsy, but treatment can lower your risk for future seizures. Sentara offers a broad range of treatments. We tailor your care based on the type of epilepsy you have and the symptoms you are experiencing, as well as your personal preferences.
Your treatment may include:
- Medications to control seizures, including newly approved medications and options that are only available through clinical trials
- A diet high in certain types of fats and low in carbohydrates, such as the low glycemic diet
- Surgery to carefully remove or make changes to the area of the brain where the seizures start
- Treatments for conditions that may cause (trigger) a seizure, such as relaxation techniques for stress