Understanding Epilepsy: An Overview

Epilepsy is a common neurological condition affecting over 65 million people worldwide. It is characterized by recurrent seizures caused due to faulty electrical activity in the brain which disrupts the messaging system that controls every function of the human body. While there is no cure for epilepsy, the symptoms can be controlled to a great extent through proper epilepsy treatment.

After evaluating the condition thoroughly, the doctor may prescribe anti-seizure drugs to help the patient lead a seizure-free life. On an average, medication for epilepsy treatment is effective for 7 people out of 10. Some mild side effects such as dizziness, tiredness, weight gain, rashes, clumsiness, and depression, etc. may be experienced by the patient. If it fails, surgery and alternate therapies can be employed to treat the affected part of the brain.

Common Symptoms of Epilepsy

The most common sign of epilepsy is a seizure. Although, experiencing a single seizure doesn’t mean the person has epilepsy. Having at least two unprovoked seizures becomes cause enough for an epilepsy diagnosis. Seizure symptoms also vary widely depending on part of the brain being affected by abnormal activity. Some of the most common epilepsy symptoms include:

  1. Short spells of blackout
  2. Confused memory
  3. Inappropriate repetitive movements
  4. Loss of consciousness and/or awareness
  5. Uncontrollable jerking movements of arms, legs, etc.
  6. Dizziness
  7. Staring blankly
  8. Tingling sensation in the limbs

What Causes Epilepsy?

Epilepsy occurs when the messaging system in our brain is disrupted due to faulty electrical activity. As every function in the human body is triggered by these messages, epilepsy can wreak havoc on a person’s everyday life. For 6 out of 10 people suffering from epilepsy, doctors can’t determine the cause. While researchers remain unsure about the underlying cause of epilepsy, they have identified certain risk factors. Some of these include:

  1. Head injury during an accident
  2. Brain conditions such as stroke and tumor
  3. Developmental disorders such as autism and neurofibromatosis
  4. Prenatal injury
  5. Infectious diseases such as AIDS, meningitis and encephalitis
  6. Vascular diseases
  7. Lack of oxygen to the brain
  8. Genetic and/or developmental disorders
  9. Sudden bouts of blinking, chewing, etc.
  10. Unexplained stiffness in the body

Epilepsy Diagnosis

Epilepsy diagnosis is not a simple procedure as there is no single test that can be undertaken to diagnose epilepsy. An accurate diagnosis establishes the foundation for successful epilepsy treatment. The diagnosis is based on the person’s physical and mental state before, during and after the seizure. A comprehensive neurological examination that tests the patient’s behavior, motor abilities, mental function, etc., blood tests and other medical tests such as EEG, MRI, CT scan, PET, etc. that detects abnormal brain activity can help in the proper diagnosis of the type of epilepsy. Other than these tests, understanding the patient’s medical history and other health conditions is also important to decide the course of effective epilepsy treatment as some inherited conditions such as tuberous sclerosis can also cause epilepsy.

Epilepsy Treatment and Prevention

Currently, there is no cure for most types of epilepsy but the symptoms can be managed through epilepsy treatment such as medication, therapies, ketogenic diet or surgery. Epilepsy treatment can include one or more of the following:

  1. Anti-seizure medication: Various anti-epileptic drugs such as Cannabidiol, Clonazepam, Gabapentin, Phenytoin, etc. form the core of epilepsy treatment as they control the symptoms. The doctor will prescribe a drug after analyzing the type of seizure and may have to try other drugs if the first one is ineffective.            
  2. Surgery: Surgery is done as a last resort and the surgeon removes the affected part of the brain responsible for seizures and might even make small cuts in the brain to prevent the seizure from spreading to other parts of the brain.Surgery - HCAH
  3. Stimulator devices: Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) and responsive neurostimulation (RNS) are two ways through which regular pulses of electrical energy can be sent to the brain with the help of a stimulator device. Another epilepsy treatment option is deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy that can be used for people whose condition is difficult to treat and who cannot undergo a surgery to separate or remove that part of the brain that causes seizures to happen.                           

4. Ketogenic diet: Usually recommended for children who experience seizures, this high fat, low carbohydrate diet should be taken only under the supervision of a special nutritionist. A modified Atkins diet is more suitable for most adult patients who may experience fewer seizures after a couple of months.                       

Ongoing medical research in the field may be able to develop a more effective epilepsy treatment in the near future. Epilepsy can affect all aspects of the patient’s life by having a negative impact on their emotions, behaviour, social interaction and the ability to carry out everyday activities. A recent study revealed that people suffering from epilepsy are 11 times more likely to experience premature death.

Epilepsy can take a toll on the patient’s health, both physically and mentally. Since its effects vary from person to person it might get difficult to find all information related to epilepsy and effective epilepsy treatment options in one place. Having access to a support group can mean finding understanding, ways to cope, or feel more in control about living with epilepsy. If you are looking for a support group for epilepsy patients that would provide you with the perfect opportunity to deal with it both emotionally and practically, then read more about HCAH’s epilepsy patient support programs or call 18001024224 for expert opinion.

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