Seizures in the elderly: Nuances in presentation and treatment

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Acute symptomatic seizures and epilepsy are two of the most common neurologic complaints in the elderly. Stroke is the leading underlying etiology for both. Because clinical seizure manifestations in the elderly often differ from those in younger adults, they may be difficult to recognize or may be misdiagnosed. Interpretation of diagnostic tests in elderly patients with seizures is often complicated by comorbidities, and treatment decisions require careful consideration in the context of age-related physiologic changes, comorbidities, and the use of concomitant medications. Treatment of an acute seizure with a clear precipitating cause involves correcting the underlying etiology; antiepileptic drug (AED) therapy is generally reserved for patients with epilepsy (recurrent unprovoked seizures). The prognosis for elderly epilepsy patients treated with AEDs is generally good. Both older and newer AEDs are efficacious but have respective advantages and disadvantages; no ideal AED yet exists. Status epilepticus is a neurologic emergency that is particularly frequent in the elderly and associated with high mortality, although treatment can be effective.


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