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Clues To Identify Psychological Seizures

Psychological nonepileptic seizures, or psychogenic seizures are often misdiagnosed as epileptic seizures. The former are caused by psychological condition //whereas epilepsy is caused by the abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

Because these nonepileptic seizures are similar to epileptic seizures, they can be difficult to diagnose. Three new studies published in the June 13, 2006, issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, may help make that diagnosis easier.

“The need for an accurate diagnosis early on is crucial,” said neurologist Selim Bendadis, MD, of the University of South Florida in Tampa, who wrote an editorial accompanying the studies. “Right now there is an average of seven to nine years from the time someone first has these seizures and when they are correctly diagnosed with psychological nonepileptic seizures. During that time, they are given drugs for epilepsy that do not treat their problem and they undergo repeated testing – they pay a price physically, socially and financially.”

In the simplest of the three studies, researchers reviewed videos of 208 people whose seizures were monitored at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, AZ. They found that 50 out of 52 people with psychological nonepileptic seizures closed their eyes during seizures, while 152 out of 156 people with epileptic seizures opened their eyes during seizures.

“We need to confirm these results, but these findings could help guide us toward the appropriate diagnosis early on,” said the study author, neurologist Steve S. Chung, MD. “In our experience, family members can accurately describe whether a patient’s eyes were open or closed during a seizure.”

The second study compared 26 people whose psychological nonepileptic seizures began when they were 55 or older to 241 people whose nonepileptic seizures started when they were younger than 55. The researchers found that those
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