What Is Epilepsy? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
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02, April 2024

What Is Epilepsy? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Epilepsy is a type of chronic noncommunicable brain disorder that may affect people of any age. Recurrent seizures are its defining feature. These are brief bursts of involuntary movement that can affect the whole body (generalized) or just a portion of it. They can also be followed by loss of consciousness and control over bladder or bowel movements.

A number of brain cells exhibit excessive electrical discharges during seizure episodes. Such discharges can occur in different areas of the brain. A seizure can range in severity from minor muscle jerks or attention deficits to severe and protracted convulsions. Additionally, the frequency of seizures can vary, ranging from fewer than one per year to multiple per day. 

Approximately, 1% of the world's population is epilepsy affected by epilepsy. This disorder affects around 50 million people globally, becoming the most common neurological disease and a significant health concern. Approximately 80% of people suffering from epilepsy live in low- and middle-income nations. According to estimates, if given the right diagnosis and care, up to 70% of epileptics could live seizure-free lives. In comparison to the general population, individuals with epilepsy have a threefold increased risk of dying young.

Early diagnosis and timely intervention can give better lives to epileptic patients. Therefore, it's very important to know its causes and symptoms, in order to avail the best care for better quality of life. The following article will give you an insight to epilepsy.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214751923001627
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/epilepsy

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a long-term gradually progressing condition that is characterized by recurrent seizures brought on by aberrant electrical signals generated by damaged brain cells. Seizures are brought on by an uncontrollably high spike in electrical activity within brain cells. A seizure may cause modifications to your awareness, sensations, emotions, behavior, and muscle control (your muscles may twitch or jerk). Another name for epilepsy is a seizure disorder.

Causes of Epilepsy

The cause of seizures is unknown in the majority of cases (up to 70%). Following are some known reasons:

  • Genetics
  • Mesial temporal sclerosis
  • Head injuries 
  • Infections like brain abscess, encephalitis, and neurocysticercosis.
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Developmental disorders
  • Polymicrogyria 
  • Tuberous sclerosis
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Brain conditions such as brain tumors, dementia, strokes
  • Brain vessel abnormalities abnormal blood vessels, such as arteriovenous malformations

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17636-epilepsy#symptoms-and-causes

Types of Epilepsy

Following are the two major types of epilepsy:

Focal onset seizures: It generally starts in one area of the brain, or network of cells, only affecting one side of your brain. It is also called partial onset seizure. These seizures of two types:

  • Focal onset aware seizure: It means you’re awake as well as aware during the seizure episode. It is also called simple partial seizure.
  • Focal onset impaired awareness seizure: It denotes that during the seizure you were disoriented or lost consciousness. This kind of seizure was formerly known as a complex partial seizure.

Generalized onset seizures: Widespread brain networks on both sides are simultaneously impacted by general onset seizures. Seizures with a broad focus fall into six categories.

  • Absence  seizures: This kind of seizure results in a momentary loss of awareness known as "staring into space" or blank stare. Minor muscle movements could be present, such as blinking of the eyes, lip-smacking or chewing sounds, hand movements, or rubbing of the fingers. Children are more likely to experience absence seizures, which typically last for a few seconds (less than ten), and are frequently confused with daydreaming. Petit mal seizures was the previous term for this type of seizure.
  • Atonic seizures: Atonic means "tone-free." When you have an atonic seizure, your muscles are either weak or you have lost control over them. During this brief seizure, which typically lasts less than 15 seconds, you might lose consciousness, droop or drop certain body parts, like your head or eyelids, or you might fall to the ground. This kind of seizure is occasionally referred to as a "drop attack" or "drop seizure."
  • Tonic seizures: When you have a tonic seizure, your muscle tone has significantly increased. You may fall because of tense or stiff arms, legs, back, or entire body. During this brief seizure, which typically lasts less than 20 seconds, you might be aware or experience a slight shift in awareness.
  • Clonus seizure: "Clonus" refers to a rapid, repetitive jerking or stiffening and relaxing of a muscle. Muscles can jerk continuously for a few seconds to a minute, or they can stiffen up and then jerk for a few seconds to two minutes, which is known as a clonic seizure.
  • Tonic-clonic seizures: This particular type of seizure combines repetitive, rhythmic muscle jerking (clonic) with muscular stiffness (tonic). It is referred to as grand mal seizure or convulsion. For one to five minutes, your muscles tense up and jerk as you lose consciousness and fall to the ground. You might drool, bite your tongue, and lose control over your bladder or bowel movements, causing you to urinate or poop.
  • Myoclonic seizures: Brief, shock-like twitches or jerks of the muscles are the result of this type of seizure. Typically, myoclonic seizures end after a few seconds.

Symptoms of Epilepsy

Following are certain symptoms of epilepsy:

  • Staring
  • Jerking movements
  • Body stiffening 
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Breathlessness
  • Poor bowel or bladder control
  • Poor responses to noises
  • Confusion
  • Rhythmic nodding the head
  • Periods of rapid eye blinking and staring
  • Sleep disorientation
  • Bluish turning of lips

Diagnosis of Epilepsy

Your doctor (or epilepsy specialist) will examine you physically, obtain your medical history, and possibly order blood work before making a diagnosis (to rule out other causes).
Other diagnostic tests  suggested are:

Electroencephalography (EEG): It is to measure electrical activity in your brain. Seizures are associated with specific aberrant electrical patterns.

Brain scans: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to check for abnormalities in blood vessels, infections, or tumors.

Treatment for Epilepsy

Epilepsy can be treated with antiepileptic medications. Your doctor may also suggest you certain surgical options such as surgical resection (removal of abnormal brain tissue), disconnection surgery (cutting fiber bundles connecting specific areas of your brain), stereotactic radiosurgery (targeted removal of abnormal brain tissue) or neuromodulation device implantation surgery. Over time, these devices can lessen seizures by stimulating your brain with electrical impulses.


Conclusion

Numerous therapies are available, such as anti-seizure drugs, particular diets, epilepsy surgeries, and seizure-stopping devices. Epilepsy can sometimes be a chronic condition. For others, with the right care, seizures may cease. You have some control over how well you handle your seizures. Aim for a healthy diet, minimize alcohol consumption, get enough sleep, stay away from things that make you more likely to have seizures, and take your medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

Take right medical advice and care at IBS Hospital to beat epilepsy.


FAQs

Q1: Is there a normal life with epilepsy?

A: Many epileptics are able to lead normal lives. On the other hand, individuals with difficult-to-control epilepsy or those with long-standing epilepsy are more likely to  face problems in leading a good life.

Q2: What is the cause of epilepsy?

A: Epilepsy may result from a variety of factors, such as an imbalance in the chemicals called neurotransmitters that signal nerves, tumors, strokes, and damage to the brain from disease or trauma, alone or in combination.
 

Dr Aaksha Shukla By -Dr Aaksha Shukla | April 02, 2024 | 9 Min Read

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