Abdominal Epilepsy

What Is It?

Abdominal epilepsy, sometimes referred to as autonomic seizures, is a very rare form of seizure which presents with the acute onset of symptoms seemingly related to the gastrointestinal system. Sudden abdominal pain and other symptoms can occur which are generally first thought to be related to abdominal disease such as irritable bowel syndrome or gastroenteritis. However, in a small set of patients it has been shown that these symptoms can occur along with seizure activity in the brain, demonstrated by electroencephalogram, and may respond to treatment with antiepileptic medications.


What Types of Symptoms Are Typical?

Patients generally complain of recurrent paroxysms, or attacks, of abdominal symptoms such as pain, nausea, gas and bloating and even abdominal twitching. In some cases these attacks can be followed by more typical seizure activity such as a generalized seizure. Likewise, these attacks can occur in patients who at other times experience other types of seizures. While some patients only experience abdominal or gastrointestinal type symptoms with the attacks, some may also have alterations in their level of consciousness.


How Is The Diagnosis Typically Made?

Because abdominal epilepsy is such a rare condition and can be mistaken for many much more common ailments, it can be difficult to make the diagnosis. Definitive diagnosis is generally considered to require an electrocephalogram which demonstrates seizure activity in the brain during one of the abdominal episodes. Response to anti-seizure medications also supports the diagnosis since other causes of gastrointestinal upset do not typically respond to these medications.


What Are Some Common Treatments?

As stated above, because the symptoms are related to seizure activity in the brain, prevention of the seizures with antiepilepsy medications may help to control the abdominal symptoms. Other epilepsy treatments may be considered as for other forms of epilepsy in cases which are difficult to control. Each patient is different and should discuss their treatment options with their own treating physicians.



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Important Note: This site is not intended to offer medical advice. Every patient is different, and only your personal physician can help to counsel you about what is best for your situation. What we offer is general reference information about various disorders and treatments for your education.

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