Epilepsy is a medical condition in which the patient has recurring seizures. A seizure is the temporary disturbance of the body’s motor, sensory and mental functions. This is due to a abnormal dysfunction of the brain’s nerve cells. The type of seizure will depend on the area of the brain in which this dysfunction takes place. The area affected does not matter in diagnosing epilepsy, just that the seizures are recurring.
Who is at Risk of Epilepsy?
There is no rhyme or reason to who will suffer from epilepsy. The most healthy person can suffer from this disorder.
Symptoms of Epilepsy
Since there are many types of seizures there are also many possible signs and symptoms. Basically any repetitive behavior can be a sign of a seizure. Here are a list of the different types of seizures and the symptoms generally associated with them.
Generalized Seizures also known as Grand Mal seizure is a seizure that effects the entire brain or cortex. A person experiencing this type of seizure will usually make strange noises or even cry out before going stiff and then having jerking motions of the arms and legs. These rhythmic movements will slow before stopping. The person’s eyes are generally open during the seizure and it is not uncommon for them to appear to not be breathing. It is also likely that the person will urinate during the seizure and come out of the seizure dazed and confused.
There are also focused seizures that affect only one portion of the brain and therefore only affect a small portion of the body. The person usually remains conscious during the event. It can have symptoms that are commonly diagnosed as another illness as its symptoms can be confusing. There may be a hand twitch or old smell or vision of something that isn’t real. There are a number of symptoms for focused seizures as it can affect many parts of the brain.
Causes of Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a disorder that has many causes. Anything that has the potential to affect the neuron activity of the brain can cause epilepsy. Some of the known and most common causes of epilepsy are:
Head Injuries: Head injuries can lead to having epilepsy after the event due to the change in the activity in the brain. The damaged caused to the brain can trigger these episodes. Wearing protective gear to prevent these injuries is important to prevent epilepsy.
Prenatal Development and Injuries: Injuries that occur to the fetus during pregnancy can cause epilepsy. The damage to the developing brain or abnormalities of the brain during pregnancy can also cause epilepsy. Some of these injuries or abnormalities can be caused by poor nutrition of the mother, smoking cigarettes, and lack of oxygen during delivery. Epilepsy is also commonly associated with cerebral palsy.
Poisons: Exposure to poisons such as lead, carbon monoxide, and even other poisons such as street drugs and overdosing of medication for example antidepressants can cause epilepsy.
Genetics: Genetics can also play a factor in who suffers from epilepsy. Although it may not be the sole cause for this disorder it has been proven to play a factor. There are several forms of epilepsy that can be traced back through a family history. Researchers have been able to isolate several genes that are suspected to play a role in these types of epilepsy.
Other Disorders: Other disorders can also be a cause of epilepsy. Basically epilepsy is a symptom of these other diseases and disorders. A few examples of this are brain tumors, alcoholism, Alzheimer’s, heart attacks and strokes. These are just a few of the disease or disorders that can cause epilepsy but basically any disease or disorder that limits or reduces oxygen to the brain can have the potential to cause epilepsy.
Triggers of Epilepsy
Many of us have heard that flashing lights like strobe light can cause epilepsy. This is somewhat true. While it does not cause epilepsy it can trigger an episode in someone who suffers from epilepsy and is photosensitive to light. Cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of sleep, menstrual periods, and stress can also be factors that trigger an epileptic seizure.
Alternative Treatments for Epilepsy
While there are no over the counter treatments for epilepsy there are alternative treatments for epilepsy. A diet rich in fats and low in carbs can trigger an effect called ketosis. This ketosis occurs when the body breaks down fats rather than carbs to create energy. This treatment should be closely monitored by a physician and nutritionist as there is a serious risk of nutritional deficiencies associated with this type of diet. It has been shown to work in children who otherwise had not found relieve from medications. This treatment can cause retarded growth due to the lack of nutrients.
It is also important for patients with epilepsy to get plenty of sleep and workout to prevent stress. These two factors can have a direct effect on the number of seizures experienced.
When Is Medical Intervention Required?
Anytime someone has a seizure it is important for them to be seen by a medical professional. There are a variety of doctors who can treat epilepsy. You may be referred to a specialist if your case warrants further insight to the cause or failure of controlling the seizures.
Medical Treatments for Epilepsy
There are over twenty drugs currently prescribed to treat epilepsy. The process of finding the correct drug is to determine the type of seizure you are experiencing and the area of the brain that seizure is effecting. It is also a trial and error. One drug may work for some patients perfectly while does not affect another patient at all.
There are also several surgeries that can be performed to prevent the seizures associated with epilepsy. These surgeries can completely prevent the seizures or diminish the effects of the seizures. One of the most common procedures is to cut the corpus collosum. This procedure is performed mainly on children who experience a generalized seizure that begins on one side of the brain and move across the entire brain in a wave like motion. The corpus collosum connects the two halves of the brain.
The most common surgery for those with localized seizures is a lobectomy. In this procedure the portion of the brain where the seizure originates at is removed. This is very successful in preventing any further seizure activity in these patients.