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12/21/2009 - Questions and Answers

Is it epilepsy?

By: Mark Castleden

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I am a 39-year-old woman. I have had problems with forgetfulness for a while which has been progressing (I will forget things within minutes), word finding difficulties - or the wrong words just comes out - and problems with handwriting (I cannot form letters, spell incorrectly, and my writing is much more cramped). I've been disoriented a few times on familiar routes. I have daily headaches in the right temple region (I've had these for years, though). Sometimes, I get sharp, stabbing pains in the right temple (this is new). I'm sometimes unsteady on my feet. Can you tell me the possible causes for this?

Question

I am a 39-year-old woman. I have had problems with forgetfulness for a while which has been progressing (I will forget things within minutes), word finding difficulties - or the wrong words just comes out - and problems with handwriting (I cannot form letters, spell incorrectly, and my writing is much more cramped). I've been disoriented a few times on familiar routes. I have daily headaches in the right temple region (I've had these for years, though). Sometimes, I get sharp, stabbing pains in the right temple (this is new). I'm sometimes unsteady on my feet. Can you tell me the possible causes for this?

Answer

What you are describing, especially in light of the headaches you are having, is consistent with problems in the temporal lobe of your brain. The symptoms you describe are typical of a lesion due either to a stroke, an aneurysm, or a tumor. Given your age, it's more likely that this represents a condition known as temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE).

The most important thing that you can do is to see your physician as soon as possible! He/she will probably do some diagnostic studies including blood tests, a CAT scan of your brain, probably a routine and sleep-deprived EEG (electroencephalogram), and perhaps a cerebral arteriogram. Your primary care physician will probably arrange a consultation with a neurologist.

It's very important to do this right away as you could have an episode while driving and wind up in a serious accident. There are treatments available and more serious conditions that I first mentioned could exist that must be evaluated. Be very specific about what you are experiencing when you see your doctor and perhaps write everything down before you go. Until you have this checked, it's probably a good idea not to drive or operate any equipment that could result in an injury while you have an episode.

Created on: 07/01/2002
Reviewed on: 12/21/2009

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