November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. When some people think about epilepsy, they think about seizures, but a local doctor says it’s more than just seizures. It’s when the cell activity is disturbed in the brain and can be caused by a brain injury or genetic disorder.

Dr. Saurabh Lalan, a Neurologist and Epileptologist at CCMH, just recently joined CCMH. He’ll be working remotely and seeing patients in person in the clinic and when he needs to perform procedures.

He said if someone has seizures, that doesn’t mean one has epilepsy, but if they have epilepsy, they have seizures.

“Seizures can be provoked by a lot of things,” he said. “The most common thing is alcohol, drugs, things like that. Epilepsy, on the other hand, is sort of like you having repetitive seizures, and there’s not an offending agent like alcohol or drugs.”

He said a lot of the time, parents and other people in kids’ life don’t realize they’re epileptic.

“So they would just stare in space for just a few seconds or just a second, and the parent would not realize it until later in their age,” Dr. Lalan said.

As for adults, the symptoms are more pronounced and easier to notice.

“Either you will just be staring off for a few seconds,” he said. “Or you’re in a conversation, and you miss out on that, or you have some sort of jerking moments, whether it’s one-sided or both-sided, you lose consciousness, blackout spells, etc.”

Dr. Lalan said there isn’t a cure for epilepsy, but there is treatment. He said treatment has come a long way in the past 50 years as just 40 to 50 years ago, there was just one drug for treatment, and it had a lot of side effects.

“20 years back, we did have up a few medications,” Dr. Lalan said. “And they all had side effects, but in the last 10 to 20 years, we’ve had a dramatic change in the treatment for epilepsy. So, there’s a lot of hope. The side effects are pretty minimal, and a lot of our patients are going seizure-free for a long duration.”

That’s important to Dr. Lalan because, with each seizure, you’re losing neurons in your brain.

“I think it’s extremely important to cut down the seizure episodes just so that you’re preventing any kind of neuron damage and preventing more frequent episodes,” he said.

Dr. Lalan said the type and severity of epilepsy, along with their response to treatment, determines how it impacts their day-to-day life.