Reading Epilepsy

Overview

Epilepsy is a disorder that results in repeated seizures. A seizure is unusual electrical activity in the brain.

Epilepsy can be triggered by different events. When it is triggered by reading, it is known as reading epilepsy.

Reading epilepsy most commonly associated with:

Symptoms

Myoclonic seizures cause the muscles in the body to tighten. This type of seizure causes quick jerking movements. Many people can experience myoclonic seizures in their everyday life. This includes hiccups and a sudden jerk while falling asleep. When these seizures become more frequent or disruptive the condition is considered epilepsy.

Myoclonic seizures may go unnoticed because they happen so quickly. Someone may think they are tics or clumsiness.

Symptoms of these seizures include:

  • Quick, uncontrolled muscle jerks
  • Jerky or rhythmic movements
  • Unusual clumsiness

Myoclonic seizures can change to a generalized tonic-clonic seizure. This can happen if reading is continued after symptoms in the jaw are ignored.

Symptoms of focal seizures include:

  • Muscle tightening
  • Unusual head movements
  • Blank stares
  • Eyes moving from side to side
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Skin crawling (like ants crawling on the skin)
  • Hallucinations- seeing, smelling, or hearing things that are not there
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Flushed face
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heart rate/pulse
  • Lost time or blacking out
  • Changes in vision
  • Feeling déjà vu (feeling like current place and time have been experienced before)
  • Changes in mood or emotion
  • Unable to speak for a short while

Causes and Risk Factors

Seizures linked to reading epilepsy can be triggered by:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking

The condition usually starts during puberty between the ages of 15 and 18 years of age.

The condition is more common in boys than girls.

Diagnosis

Making a correct epilepsy diagnosis is important. The doctor will ask you questions about your seizures to determine the type and if they are caused by epilepsy.

A detailed medical history often has the best clues about seizures. It may help rule out other conditions that might have caused the seizures. Patients will also have a neurological exam. During the exam they will be asked to remember what happens just before, during and right after they experience seizure.

The most useful way to diagnose epilepsy is an electroencephalogram (EEG). This records electrical activity in the brain. The EEG can record unusual spikes or waves in electrical activity patterns. Different types of epilepsy can be identified with these patterns.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans may be used to look at the cause and the location within the brain. The scans can show scar tissue, tumors or structural problems in the brain.

Treatment

For many patients, correct treatment can prevent seizures or allow them to happen less often. Treatment will depend on the type of seizure the patient is experiencing.

The most common treatment is avoiding what triggers the seizure. This may include reading for shorter length of time.

Anti-seizure (or anti-epileptic) medications can be very helpful for focal seizures. It may take a few tries to get the right drug and amount. The doctor will watch for side effects to find the best treatment. Clonazepam is the most commonly used anti-seizure medication used for reading seizures.

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