Recent studies have demonstrated that pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy can reduce epileptic seizures.
This is welcome news for patients with epilepsy, as every new treatment helps them better manage their condition and live a normal life.
What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a chronic health condition characterized by unpredictable and recurring seizures caused by sudden and powerful electrical discharges within the brain.
It is a common neurological condition that affects over 65 million people throughout the world.
Patients may have generalized seizures, or they may have focal or localized seizures.
Mild seizures may last only a few seconds and thus go unnoticed.
A severe seizure may last several minutes and cause a full-blown convulsion with uncontrollable muscle spasms.
While anybody can develop epilepsy, it is most common in young children and older adults.
Symptoms of Epilepsy
Epilepsy’s symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Seizures can be generalized or partial; generalized seizures involve the entire brain, while partial seizures are produced by only part of the brain.
Partial seizures can also be simple or complex; a patient having a simple partial seizure remains conscious and aware while one undergoing a complex partial seizure does not.
Symptoms of a simple partial seizure can include distortions of all five senses, dizziness, tingling sensations, and twitching muscles.
Symptoms of a complex partial seizure can include repetitive movements, staring, and unresponsiveness.
There are six types of generalized seizures: absence, atonic, clonic, myoclonic, tonic, and tonic-clonic.
Absence seizures used to be called “petit mal” and involve nothing more than a brief loss of consciousness.
The patient simply stops whatever they are doing and stares blankly for a few seconds before snapping back to normal.
Tonic-clonic seizures used to be called “grand mal” and consist of convulsions, rigid muscles, and loss of consciousness.
The patient will always lose consciousness during a generalized seizure.
Depending on the type, their muscles may lose their tone or become abnormally rigid.
They can also have muscle spasms, bite their tongue, or lose control of their bladder and/or bowels.
Causes and Triggers of Epilepsy
In about 60 percent of cases, the doctor won’t be able to determine the cause.
In the other 40 percent, common causes can include birth defects, Alzheimer’s disease, brain injury, stroke, high fever, vascular diseases, brain tumor, maternal drug use, and lack of oxygen to the brain.
Epileptic seizures can have triggers like illness, stimulants, stress, bright flashing lights, irregular eating habits, and lack of sleep.
Such triggers are not always easy to identify.
Once a patient does identify a trigger, they can try to avoid it.
Treatment of Epilepsy
While epilepsy can sometimes go away on its own, there is no true cure.
Doctors, therefore, try their best to find a treatment or treatments that will reduce the number and severity of seizures.
When possible, they will try to prevent seizures altogether.
Common treatments for epilepsy include anti-convulsant medications, a ketonic diet, vagus nerve stimulators, and/or brain surgery.
PEMF therapy is an increasingly popular treatment for epilepsy, for it is minimally invasive and does not cause side effects.
It works by using electromagnetic stimulation to rewire the brain and prevent the electrical surges that cause seizures.
PEMF Therapy and Epilepsy
PEMF therapy can’t truly cure epilepsy, but it can help a patient manage it.
PEMF therapy can reduce both the number of seizures and their severity.
While traditional medicine can help patients, it is far from perfect.
For example, many of the drugs used to treat epilepsy cause unpleasant side effects.
By contrast, PEMF therapy causes no side effects.
In 2013, the science journal “Medical Science Monitor Basic Research” described a study conducted by scientists with the Department of Neurology, Faculty of Medicine at Malpete University in Istanbul, Turkey.
The lead scientists were Nilgun Cinar, Sevki Sahin, and Oguz O. Erdnic.
The scientists wanted to test the effects of different durations and frequencies of PEMF on mice.
They used a drug called pentylenetetrazole (PTZ) to induce seizures in the mice.
The scientists worked with 180 male mice that were all four weeks old and weighed between 25 and 30 grams.
They divided the mice into 18 groups of ten.
Each group was exposed to 100, 300, 500, 700, or 900 MHz of electromagnetic waves for two, twelve, or twenty hours.
Control groups weren’t exposed to any electromagnetic waves.
The scientists then injected each mouse with 60 mg/kg of PTZ in the peritoneum, which is a transparent membrane that lines the walls of the peritoneal or abdominal cavity.
The scientists then monitored the mice to see how long it took them to have their first seizure and how long it took them to have a severe seizure.
They compared the results of the control groups to the different experimental groups.
The scientists defined “first seizure onset latency” as the time between the injection to the first myoclonic jerk.
The results showed that the mice in the 12h/700 MHz had the shortest latency before the first seizure.
Generally speaking, though, the groups exposed to the electromagnetic waves for only two hours had the shortest latency times.
By contrast, there wasn’t much difference between the groups exposed to the electromagnetic waves for twelve and twenty hours.
The scientists did observe a significant difference between the control groups and the twelve-hour groups.
They did not, however, notice a significant difference in any of the groups in terms of when the mice had their most severe seizures.
The scientists concluded that PEMF therapy was a promising treatment for epilepsy that could indeed reduce the number and severity of seizures.
More research, however, needs to be done to determine the effective amplitudes, durations, and frequencies.
While PEMF therapy can’t cure epilepsy, it can reduce the number and severity of seizures.
In addition to not causing any side effects, it has the added advantage of convenience; the patient can undergo treatment at their own home.
PEMF therapy should probably not be a patient’s only treatment, as it is still fairly experimental.
It can be very helpful to patients who have not been helped by other treatments.
In such cases, it can serve as a primary or complementary treatment.
Patients suffering from the side effects caused by their medication may be able to reduce their dosages after undergoing treatment.