It is estimated that around 30 percent of people with autism develop epilepsy, some in early childhood and others as they go through hormone level changes in puberty.
Like autism, epilepsy exists on a spectrum. Severity varies widely. In addition, experts now distinguish seizures by where they begin in the brain. This is important because it affects the choice of seizure medication, the potential benefit of epilepsy surgery, future outcomes and possible causes.
Suspicion of seizures warrants prompt evaluation by a neurologist. The neurologist may order an electroencephalogram (EEG). An EEG is a noninvasive process that involves placing electrodes on the head to monitor activity in the brain. By analyzing EEG patterns, neurologist can identify seizures and other altered brain activity of concern.
Treating epilepsy in patients who have autism follows the same principles as treatment of epilepsy in other people. Typically, the doctor usually selects an anti-epileptic medication based on several considerations such as the type and severity of seizures and their associated EEG patterns. These drugs do not cure epilepsy. In most cases, however, they can prevent or minimize seizures.