Neurological Health

Everything You Should Know About Epilepsy

Written by
Dr. Pratap Chandra Jena Jena
and medically reviewed by Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published on Oct 19, 2019   -  3 min read

Abstract

Abstract

Epilepsy is a chronic issue that causes unprovoked, recurrent seizures. A seizure is a sudden disturbance of electrical activity in the brain. There are two primary types of seizures. Generalized seizures affect the whole brain. Focal seizures affect just one part of the brain. Read the article to know more.

Everything You Should  Know About Epilepsy

What Is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a chronic issue that causes unprovoked, recurrent seizures. A seizure is a sudden disturbance of electrical activity in the brain. There are two primary types of seizures, which are:

  1. Generalized seizures - it affects the entire brain.
  2. Focal seizures - it affects just one part of the brain.

It might be difficult to recognize a mild seizure. It can last a couple of moments during which you lose consciousness. Stronger seizures can cause fits and uncontrollable muscle twitches and can last a couple of moments to a few minutes. Some patients lose consciousness during a stronger seizure. Most patients do not have any memory of it occurring.

There are a few reasons you might have a seizure. These include:

Epilepsy is a seriously common neurological issue that affects 65 million people far and wide. Anybody can develop epilepsy, but it is more common in young kids and more seasoned adults. It happens slightly more in males than in females.

What Are the Symptoms of Epilepsy?

Seizures are the primary symptom of epilepsy. Symptoms differ from individual to individual and as per the type of seizure.

Focal (partial) seizures - A basic partial seizure does not include a loss of consciousness. The symptoms include:

  • Alterations of taste, smell, sight, hearing, or touch.
  • Dizziness.
  • Tingling and twitching of limbs.

Complex partial seizures - It includes loss of consciousness along with:

  • Staring blankly.
  • Lethargy.
  • Performing repetitive movements.

What Causes Epilepsy?

A variety of things can prompt seizures. The possible causes include:

  • Traumatic brain injury.
  • Serious illness or extremely high fever.
  • Stroke, which is a leading cause of epilepsy.
  • Other vascular diseases.
  • Absence of oxygen to the brain.
  • Brain tumor or cyst.
  • Dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
  • Maternal drug use, prenatal injury, brain malformation.
  • Infectious diseases, for example, AIDS and meningitis.
  • Genetic or developmental issues or neurological diseases.
  • Heredity in certain types of epilepsy.

The chances of developing epilepsy before 20 years of age is 1 %. For a positive family history, the risk increases to 2 to 5 %. Genetics may likewise make a few people more susceptible to seizures from environmental triggers. Epilepsy can develop at any age. Diagnosis, for the most part, happens in early childhood or after the age of 60 years.

How Is Epilepsy Diagnosed?

Depending on your medical history and symptoms, the doctor will suggest some diagnostic tests. You will most likely have a neurological examination to test your motor abilities and mental functioning.

To analyze epilepsy, other conditions that cause seizures should be discounted. You might have to get a complete blood count. A complete blood count is used to look for:

  • Indications of infectious diseases.
  • Liver and kidney function.
  • Blood glucose levels.

EEG (electroencephalogram) is the most common test used in diagnosing epilepsy. It is a noninvasive, painless test. You may be approached to play out a specific task. At times, the test is performed during sleep.

Imaging tests can uncover tumors and other abnormalities that can cause seizures. These tests might include:

  • CT scan.
  • MRI.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET).
  • Single-photon discharge computerized tomography.

Epilepsy is normally diagnosed if you have seizures for no apparent or reversible reasons.

How Is Epilepsy Treated?

Most people can manage epilepsy. Your treatment plan will be founded on the severity of symptoms, your health, and how well you react to the therapy.

Some treatment options include:

1. Antiepileptic (anticonvulsant, antiseizure) drugs: These medications can reduce the number of seizures you have. In some people, they help in eliminating seizures. For the medications to be effective, take them as prescribed by your doctor.

2. Vagus nerve stimulator: This gadget is surgically set under the skin on the chest and electrically stimulates the nerve that goes through your neck. This can help prevent seizures.

3. Ketogenic diet: More than half of people who do not react to medication benefit from this high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet.

4. Brain surgery: The area of the brain that causes seizures can be removed.

Research into new treatments is continuous. One treatment that may be accessible in the future is profound brain stimulation. Here, electrodes are implanted into the brain, and a generator is inserted in the chest. This generator sends electrical driving forces to the brain to help reduce seizures. Another road of research includes a pacemaker-like device to stop a seizure.

Medications for Epilepsy:

Antiseizure medications are the first-line treatment for epilepsy. These drugs help reduce the recurrence and severity of seizures. The medication is absorbed by the stomach, and then it travels to the bloodstream and brain. It affects neurotransmitters in a manner that reduces the electrical activity that prompts seizures. The common epilepsy medications include:

  • Levetiracetam (Keppra).
  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal).
  • Topiramate (Topamax).
  • Valproic acid (Depakote).
  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol).
  • Ethosuximide (Zarontin).
Last reviewed at:
19 Oct 2019  -  3 min read

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