Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD. Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis

A seizure is caused by abnormal signals in the brain. This may be brought on by a head injury, stroke, brain infection, or tumor, but more than half the time the cause is unknown. Petit mal seizures generally respond well to antiseizure medication.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Petit mal or absence seizures are characterized by a period of altered consciousness, which may only appear as a blank stare. They may occur in adults but are more common in children. Petit mal seizures may be mistaken for a lack of attention or daydreaming. Seizures may be preceded by a warning sign such as a strange feeling, an unusual taste or odor, or a headache. Rarely, a petit mal seizure may lead to a full-body (tonic-clonic or grand mal) seizure. A tonic-clonic seizure generally causes a loss of consciousness, vigorous muscle contractions, and loss of control of your bladder and/or bowel. When epilepsy is newly diagnosed, you must take several precautions until you have confidence that your seizure disorder is well controlled. If you live alone, you should make arrangements for someone
to stay with you until your physician believes it is safe for you to resume living alone.

Initially, your physician may want to get a computed tomography (CT) scan of your brain and a brain wave study (electroencephalogram, [EEG]) to determine whether there is a known cause for your seizures. The primary treatment for seizures is medication. Sometimes more than one antiseizure or anticonvulsant medication may be used. Your physician may have to obtain blood samples at times to ensure that you are receiving the correct dose of medication. Your dose schedule may be adjusted to achieve a protective blood level of medication. There are several different medications that may be used, and your physician will give you information about the side effects associated with each edication prescribed. Often, the medication will decrease the frequency and severity of the seizures, but some individuals, despite medication, continue to have seizures.

The DOs
• Take your medication as prescribed to prevent seizures.
• Wear an ID bracelet indicating that you have a seizure disorder and listing the medications you are taking.
• Teach your family and friends about your disorder and what to do if you have a seizure.
• If you feel a seizure coming on, tell someone near you and lie down.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t operate dangerous machinery or drive unless your physician has approved.
• Don’t swim alone.
• Don’t climb on ladders or roofs or anything that may be dangerous should you have a seizure.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If the patient is injured during a seizure, has difficulty breathing, or does not regain consciousness shortly after the seizure.
• If the patient has continuous tonic-clonic seizures.
This is a medical emergency called status epilepticus. Call “911” for an ambulance.
• If you have any problems associated with your medications.
• If your seizures become more frequent or severe.