A neurological condition in which a patient has two or more unprovoked seizures, epilepsy affects about 50 million people worldwide, and about 3 million in the United States, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. When a person has a seizure, a group of nerve cells fire abnormally, causing irregular electrical activity in the brain.
Patients with epilepsy can have a variety of symptoms, which depend on where in the brain this abnormal electrical activity occurs. For example, a patient may have changes in her mood during a seizure, such as having unexplained laughter or panic. With some types of seizures, patients lose consciousness.
Changes in muscle control can occur with some epilepsy patients. This may include muscle twitching, muscle tension or loss of muscle control.
One type of condition that may occur is Todd’s paralysis, also called epileptic hemiplegia, in which the patient has temporary paralysis after experiencing a seizure. In many cases, the paralysis affects one side of the body.
Some patients may have complete paralysis with Todd’s paralysis, or partial paralysis, meaning the entire side of the body is not paralyzed. The duration of the paralysis can range from 30 minutes to 36 hours.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke noted that the average duration of Todd’s paralysis is 15 hours. Besides affecting the patient’s muscles, Todd’s paralysis can also affect the patient’s vision and speech.
The cause of Todd’s paralysis is not known. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke stated that theories involve a decrease in energy output, which may occur in either the motor areas of the brain or in neurons.
There is also no treatment for Todd’s paralysis. When a patient is having symptoms, she should rest comfortably until the paralysis subsides.
Patients with Todd’s paralysis may use different medications to manage their epilepsy, such as phenytoin, lamotrigine and gabapentin. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke warned that Todd’s paralysis should be differentiated from a stroke, which can present with similar symptoms.
A stroke, in which blood flow to a region of the brain has become disrupted, requires different treatment, such as clot-busting drugs.
Epilepsy Foundation. About Epilepsy. Web. 5 October 2011
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Seizures. Web. 5 October 2011
eMedTV. Epilepsy Medication. Web. 5 October 2011
eMedTV. Todd’s Paralysis. Web. 5 October 2011
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Todd’s Paralysis. Web. 5 October 2011
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Stroke. Web. 5 October 2011
Reviewed October 6, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith