'Senior moments' may signal epilepsy

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by By JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:34 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 12:35 PM

Video: Forgetfulness may signal something serious

Forgetfulness or dizziness is common among older adults, but these symptoms may not be just signs of age. They could be signaling something much more serious and treatable.

"Every bone in my body felt like it was totally arthritic," said George. "I thought I was just getting klutzyI was falling and I was having blackouts."

George thought his troubles just went with growing older. So did those closest to him.

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"He had a stare about him," said Toni McCollum, George's sister.

"All of the sudden, he just kind of leaned over, and a cigarette dropped out of his hand," said John Vail, George's best friend.

It wasn't old age. It was epilepsy.

A video of George having a seizure shows there are no jerky movements that most of us associate with epilepsy. George is moving his mouth a little, but for the most part, he just zones out - signs of senior epilepsy, such as repeated episodes of losing consciousness, dizziness, and language or behavioral changes.

"Older people have more staring spells or even pass out when having a seizure," said Dr. Lara Jehi, epileptologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Epilepsy affects about 300,000 seniors.

"The longer you let it drag on, the more damage it can do to the brain," said Jehi.

Treatments include medication and surgery. George decided to have surgery. Now, he feels 100 percent better.

"I can say for sure I have not had a seizure since the surgery," said George.

Family and friends have the man they knew back.

"It's in his eyes. That look is gone," said George's sister.

"He hasn't lost his edge at all," said George's best friend.

The risk of getting epilepsy is at least four times, higher in people older than 60.

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