Epilepsy in the elderly: Special considerations and challenges

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Abstract

The elderly are generally defined as those over 60 or 65 years old, but they are a heterogeneous group and may be subdivided into categories based on age and health status. The incidence of epilepsy is highest in the elderly. With a progressive increase in life expectancy, this is the fastest growing segment of patients with epilepsy. Older patients most often have focal seizures, with less prominent auras and automatisms, and longer duration of postictal confusion compared to younger patients. Status epilepticus is common and has a high mortality. The most common specific etiology is cerebrovascular disease, but the cause remains unknown in many patients. Diagnosis can be challenging because of several patient-related, physician-related and investigation-related factors. Over-diagnosis and under-diagnosis are common. Treatment is complicated by the presence of physiological changes related to aging, co-morbidities and cognitive problems as well as concerns regarding drug interactions and medication adherence. Seizures can be controlled in most patients with low doses of a single anti-epileptic drug (AED). Tolerability is an important factor in selection of an AED, as elderly patients tend to be highly sensitive to side effects. Drug-resistant epilepsy is uncommon. Epilepsy surgery, especially temporal lobectomy, can be performed in older patients with good results. More studies addressing the pathophysiological mechanisms of epilepsy in this age group, and greater inclusion of the elderly in clinical trials, as well as development of comprehensive care models are needed to provide optimal care to these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S18-S26
JournalAnnals of Indian Academy of Neurology
Volume17
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Neurology

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