Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder in which the brain functions abnormally and causes recurrent seizures. Seizures are symptoms of brain problems that can occur abruptly and cause unusual electrical activity in the brain, unconsciousness, and prolonged convulsions (body shakes uncontrollably). It can affect people of all age groups, irrespective of their gender, race, etc. In most cases, it can be cured with medication. However, few cases might require surgery to control seizures for people having epilepsy.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder, the hallmark of which is recurrent, unprovoked seizures. A person is diagnosed with it if they have two unprovoked seizures (or one unprovoked seizure with the likelihood of more) that were not caused by some known and reversible medical condition like alcohol withdrawal or extremely low blood sugar. The seizures may be related to a brain injury or a family tendency, but often the cause is completely unknown. The word "epilepsy" shows nothing about the cause of the person's seizures or their severity. Many people have over one type of seizure and may have other symptoms of neurological problems as well. Sometimes EEG (electroencephalogram) testing, clinical history, family history, and outlook are similar among a group of people with epilepsy. In these situations, their condition can be defined as a specific epilepsy syndrome.
Types of Epilepsy
Doctors differentiate seizures as either focal or generalized, based on how abnormal brain activity begins and epilepsy type.
Generalized Onset Seizures
Generalized onset seizures occur due to abnormal activity on both sides of the brain, which causes violent generalized convulsions and loss of consciousness. It may occur because of an impulse however, it can also be provoked by other external factors. It is linked with severe complications and may be life-threatening.
Focal seizures occur from abnormal activity in just one area of your brain. The signs and symptoms will depend on the affected side of the brain the seizure occurs in, and which part of the brain manages body functions, and symptoms may differ from person to person.
The Symptoms may vary depending on the type. Mostly, a person suffering from it will develop the same seizure every time, leading to similar symptoms. The individual should consult a doctor, especially if they experience the below symptoms:
- Temporary confusion or loss of consciousness.
- Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs.
- Loss of consciousness or awareness.
- The person may become fearful, panic, and angry.
- Repeated seizures.
- The person loses their ability to think, react, or communicate for a short period.
Certain factors may increase the risks:
- A severe head injury.
- Brain Condition like Brain stroke, Tumour.
- Genetic syndromes or Congenital abnormalities.
- Prenatal injury, or brain damage that occurs before birth.
- Developmental disorders such as autism and neurofibromatosis.
- Brain infections such as meningitis, encephalitis, neurocysticercosis.
- Genetics plays a crucial role in developing it.
Certain factors may increase the risks:
A family history may increase the risk of developing a seizure.
Head injuries are considered to be a reason for some cases of epilepsy. The risk can be reduced by wearing a seat belt while riding a car or by wearing a helmet while engaging in activities with a high risk of head injury.
Stroke and other vascular diseases
Stroke and other blood vessel (vascular) diseases can cause brain damage that may trigger it. To reduce your risk alcohol, and cigarettes should be avoided, a healthy diet, and exercise regularly.
Dementia can higher the risk of epilepsy in older individuals.
Infections such as meningitis that cause infection in your brain or spinal cord can increase the risk.
Seizures in childhood
High fever in children can sometimes be related to seizures. The risk increases if a child has a long seizure, another nervous system condition, or has a family history.
An accurate epilepsy diagnosis plays a crucial role in ineffective treatment. The first step is to understand whether the symptoms described by the patient are due to a seizure or caused by any other factor. If it is determined that the symptoms are consistent with it, the type and the causes need to be identified. While diagnosing the doctor will examine your medical history with a detailed account of the event and conduct a variety of tests and investigations.
These tests allow a doctor to observe the patient’s brain activity and review its brain to diagnose it:
- Blood tests
- Electroencephalogram (EEG)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Computed tomography (CT)
The doctor aims to prevent seizures and their side effects from reoccurring so that the patient can lead a normal, active, and productive life.
There is no proper treatment for most types. However, surgery can eliminate some kinds of seizures from arising, and in most cases, the disease can be controlled. If it is diagnosed, the doctor will prescribe anti-epileptic drugs. If drugs don’t work, surgery, a special diet, or VNS (vagus nerve stimulation) is treated as the next option.
When to See a Doctor?
Seek immediate medical help if any of the following occurs:
- A seizure lasts over five minutes.
- Breathing or consciousness takes a longer time to recover after the seizure stops.
- A second seizure follows immediately after the first seizure.
- If you’re experiencing heat exhaustion, High fever.
- You’re pregnant.
- You have diabetes.
- You injure yourself during the seizure.
- Experiencing sudden headaches, numbness, or weakness on one side of your body before you have a seizure could be a sign of a stroke.
Here are some facts about:
- It is a neurological condition with symptoms of seizures.
- The severity of seizures varies from person to person.
- Treatments include anti-seizure medications.
- It affects people of all age groups.
- The risk of premature death in people with epilepsy is three times more than in the population.
- People with epilepsy suffer from stigma and discrimination.
Preventive measures can be applied to the familiar causes of epilepsy. The prevention helps to prevent head injury. Proper prenatal care can reduce cases caused by birth injury. Elimination of parasites in environments and awareness, education on how to avoid infections can be effective ways to reduce it worldwide.