What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a central nervous system (neurological) disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behaviour, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness.
The seizure symptoms can vary widely. Some people with epilepsy simply stare blankly for a few seconds during a seizure, while others repeatedly twitch their arms or legs. Having a single seizure doesn’t mean you have epilepsy. At least two unprovoked seizures are generally required for an epilepsy diagnosis.
Anyone can develop epilepsy, at any time of life. It happens in people of all ages, races and social classes. However it is most commonly diagnosed in children and in people over 65. Epilepsy affects both males and females of all races, ethnic backgrounds and ages.
Treatment with medications or sometimes surgery can control seizures for the majority of people with epilepsy. Some people require lifelong treatment to control seizures, but for others, the seizures eventually go away. Some children with epilepsy may outgrow the condition with age.
Some symptoms may include:
- Temporary confusion
- A staring spell
- Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
- Loss of consciousness or awareness
- Psychic symptoms such as fear, anxiety or deja vu
Symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure.
See a doctor immediately if:
- The seizure lasts more than five minutes.
- Breathing or consciousness doesn’t return after the seizure stops.
- A second seizure follows immediately.
- You have a high fever.
- You’re experiencing heat exhaustion.
- You’re pregnant.
- You have diabetes.
- You’ve injured yourself during the seizure.
Epilepsy has no identifiable cause in about half the people with the condition. In the other half, the condition may be traced to some of the below factors:
- Genetic influence. Some types of epilepsy, which are categorized by the type of seizure you experience or the part of the brain that is affected, run in families.
- Head trauma. Head trauma as a result of a car accident or other traumatic injury can cause epilepsy.
- Brain conditions. Brain conditions that cause damage to the brain, such as brain tumors or strokes, can cause epilepsy. Stroke is a leading cause of epilepsy in adults older than age 35.
- Infectious diseases. Infectious diseases, such as meningitis, AIDS and viral encephalitis, can cause epilepsy.
- Prenatal injury. Before birth, babies are sensitive to brain damage. It may be due to an infection in the mother, poor nutrition or oxygen deficiencies.
- Developmental disorders. Epilepsy can sometimes be associated with developmental disorders, such as autism and neurofibromatosis.
Having a seizure at certain times can lead to circumstances that are dangerous to yourself or others.
- Falling. If you fall during a seizure, you can injure your head or break a bone.
- Drowning. If you have epilepsy, you’re 15 to 19 times more likely to drown while swimming or bathing than the rest of the population because of the possibility of having a seizure while in the water.
- Car accidents. A seizure that causes either loss of awareness or control can be dangerous if you’re 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. Consult your doctor before planning your pregnancy.
- Emotional health issues. People with epilepsy are more likely to have psychological problems, especially depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
- Status epilepticus. This condition occurs if you’re in a state of continuous seizure activity lasting more than five minutes or if you have frequent recurrent seizures without regaining full consciousness in between them. People with status epilepticus have an increased risk of permanent brain damage and death.
- Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). People with epilepsy also have a small risk of sudden unexpected death. The cause is unknown, however people with frequent tonic-clonic seizures or people whose seizures aren’t controlled by medications may be at higher risk of SUDEP. Overall, about 1 percent of people with epilepsy die of SUDEP.
Fortunately, epilepsy is a treatable condition. Many people with epilepsy (two out of three) will achieve good seizure control with medication. When medication is not effective in preventing seizures there are other treatment options available.
Are you Epileptic? Here is a guide on healthy living with Epilepsy:
- Follow a healthy diet and take care of your overall health.
- Know and understand your epilepsy diagnosis.
- Be in compliance of the best treatment for you.
- Know your seizure triggers and make lifestyle changes to prevent or avoid them.
- Speak to others suffering from Epilepsy. It help gain insights to manage the disease and improve your quality of life.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Epilepsy, meet our experts at our Centre for Neurosciences. Please find below link for further details on Epilepsy treatment: