Epilepsy in the Elderly

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BackgroundEpilepsy is one of the most common neurologic diseases that affect the elderly population. Underlying etiologies as well as diagnostic and treatment issues vary from that of younger adults and deserve special consideration.Review SummaryThe substantially increased risk of seizures and epilepsy in the elderly is associated with medical conditions that affect this group such as stroke, dementia, and metabolic disturbances. In addition, there is an increased incidence and associated mortality of status epilepticus among seniors. Distinguishing epilepsy from paroxysmal nonepileptic events can be a particular challenge. As in the general adult population, EEG and MRI are the cornerstones of diagnostic assessment; however, the clinician must be aware of nonspecific changes associated with aging that do not necessarily indicate an underlying predisposition for epilepsy. Finally, there are unique challenges to the treatment of epilepsy in this population, but fortunately there are multiple treatment options available, including nonpharmacological therapies.ConclusionsKnowledge of the unique challenges in identifying and treating the elderly patient with epilepsy is important for effective management as well as maximizing quality of life. However, further studies in this area are still needed to establish optimal treatment strategies.

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