Epilepsy in the elderly.


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Abstract

BACKGROUNDEpilepsy is the third most common disease affecting the brain in the elderly. Current demographic trends will lead to an increased prevalence of epilepsy in the general population.METHODSA selective literature search revealed 102 relevant publications as of September 2008, 50 of which were original articles.RESULTSThe level of evidence was found to be very low. No guidelines, systematic reviews or meta-analyses are available, and there have been only three randomized, double-blind trials of treatment for epilepsy in the elderly. The seizures often escape clinical attention, because premonitory symptoms (aura) and secondary generalization into tonic-clonic seizures are both rarer in older patients. On the other hand, sudden loss of consciousness from various causes becomes more common with increasing age, presenting a challenge in differential diagnosis. Treatment is often more complex because of comorbidities and multiple other drugs, and requires a cautious approach. Drug interactions, in particular, require special attention. On the positive side, epileptic seizures in the elderly seem to be more easily controlled by medications than they are in young adults.CONCLUSIONSEpilepsy is often more difficult to recognize in old age. The treatment is hampered by side effects and drug interactions. Thus, certainty about the diagnosis is indispensable, and the treatment often requires the use of newer-generation antiepileptic drugs.

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