Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system whereby the activity of the brain becomes abnormal, causing seizures, sensations, and loss of consciousness. Epilepsy mostly occurs in young children and older adults. Men develop epilepsy more often than women because of the higher exposure to the risk factors which includes alcohol consumption and head trauma. However, generalized and focal seizures are mainly two types of seizures. Generalized seizure is when the whole part of the brain is affected and focal or partial seizure affect one part of the brain.
Causes of Epilepsy
Variety of factors can contribute to the development of seizures, which include
- Traumatic brain injury or other head trauma
- Serious illness or very high fever
- Brain scarring after a brain injury (post-traumatic epilepsy)
- Brain tumor or cyst
- Lack of oxygen to the brain
- Diseases condition such as Alzheimer’s
- Maternal use of some drugs, prenatal injury, brain malformation, or lack of oxygen at birth
- Neurological disorder
- Infectious conditions like HIV and AIDS and meningitis
Symptoms of Epilepsy
The main symptom of epilepsy is seizure. Moreover it differs in individual based on the type of seizure.
Focal (partial) seizures
A focal seizure involves partial loss of consciousness and awareness. Symptoms include:
- Loss sense of taste, smell, sight, hearing, or touch
- Tingling and twitching of limbs
- Staring blankly
- Performing repetitive movement
Generalized seizure affects the whole brain and is sub-divided into two:
- Absence seizures: Absence seizure also called “petit mal seizures.” Which tend to cause a short loss of awareness, a blank stare, and repetitive movements like lip smacking and blinking lasted for about 5-10 seconds.
- Tonic seizures: Tonic seizures cause sudden stiffness in the muscles in your legs, arms, or trunk.
- Atonic seizures:. Also refers to “drop seizures” because a sudden loss of muscle strength and control leading sudden falls.
- Clonic seizures: Clonic seizures are a type of generalized seizure whereby there is repeated, jerky muscle movements of the face, neck, and arms.
- Myoclonic seizures: Myoclonic seizures cause spontaneous quick twitching of the arms and legs. Sometimes these seizures cluster together.
- Tonic-clonic seizures: Tonic-clonic seizures used to be called “grand mal seizures.” This is most dramatic type of epileptic seizure, characterized by following symptoms. Harden of the body, Loss of bladder or bowel control, twitching of the tongue, loss of consciousness and uncontrollable shaking.
Diagnosis of Epilepsy
Epilepsy can be rule out following the under listed investigations which includes:
Medical history: Past and present medical history enlighten the physician on likely investigations to be conducted.
Complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry: This test enables to check the function of the liver and kidney, sign of infectious diseases, blood glucose level.
Electroencephalogram (EEG): Epilepsy are commonly diagnosed with this test. It’s a noninvasive and painless test that involves placing electrodes on the scalp to search for abnormal patterns in your brain’s electrical activity.
Imaging tests: This reveals tumors and other abnormalities that can cause seizures. These tests might include: CT scan, MRI, positron emission tomography (PET), single-photon emission computerized tomography
Triggers of Epilepsy
Occurrence of epileptic seizure is commonly triggered by the following
- Lack of sleep
- Illness or fever
- Bright lights, flashing lights, or patterns
- Caffeine, alcohol or alcohol withdrawal, medications, or illegal drugs
- omitting meals, overeating, or specific food ingredients
- Very low blood sugar
- Head injury
Treatment of Epilepsy
Some Treatment for epilepsy is based on severity and it includes:
Anti-epileptic (anticonvulsant, antiseizure) drugs: Anti-epileptic medications can help reduce the period and severity of seizure. Most people may eliminate seizure, to be more effective, the medication must be taken exactly as your doctor prescribed.
Vagus nerve stimulator: This device is surgically placed under the skin on your chest and electrically stimulates the nerve that runs through neck to prevent seizures.
Ketogenic diet: According to the Epilepsy Foundation, more than half of children who do not respond to medications benefit from the ketogenic diet, which is a high fat and low carbohydrate diet.
Brain surgery: The part of the brain affected causing abnormal activity can be removed or altered.
Complications of Epilepsy
Seizure can lead to the following complications
Falling: falls during seizure can pone to head injury.
Car accidents: A seizure that causes either loss of awareness or control can be dangerous when driving a car or operating other equipment.
Pregnancy complications: Seizures during pregnancy pose dangers to both mother and baby, and certain anti-epileptic medications increase the risk of birth defects.
Emotional health issues: Epileptic patient mostly develop psychological problems, especially depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. It may be a result of difficulties in coping with the condition itself as well as medication side effects.
Status epilepticus: This condition occurs when in a state of continuous seizure activity lasting more than five minutes or having frequent recurrent seizures without regaining full consciousness in between is prone to permanent brain damage or death.
Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP): People with epilepsy also have a lower risk of sudden unexpected death. The cause is idiopathic (unknown), but study shows that it may occur due to heart or respiratory conditions.