What to know about Epilepsy?
Information on Epilepsy
Recurrent seizures are typically experienced by epilepsy patients. The electrical activity in the brain is disturbed during these seizures, briefly disrupting the communication pathways between brain cells.
This article discusses the many forms of epilepsy, their symptoms, available treatments, and prognoses.
Epilepsy is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “a common brain condition that causes repeated seizures.”
Recurrent seizures are epilepsy’s primary symptom. However, if a person exhibits one or more of the symptoms listed below, they should contact a doctor as it may be a sign of epilepsy:
- An epileptic fit without a temperature
- Brief blackouts or hazy recollection
- Periodic fainting moments where they lose control of their bowels or bladder, typically followed by excruciating exhaustion
brief inability to respond to commands or inquiries.
- Abrupt stiffness without any obvious cause
- Abruptly dropping without an obvious cause
- Abrupt blinking episodes without obvious triggers
- Sporadic chewing fits that occur for no apparent reason
- Appearing temporarily confused and unable to communicate
- Persistent, seemingly uncontrollable movements
- Fear for no discernible cause
- Fear or rage
- Strange shifts in the perceptions of touch, sound, and smell
- Jerking arms, legs, or body, which babies will manifest as a collection of quick jerking motions.
If any of these symptoms persist, it is crucial to see a doctor for advice.
Some people may mistake the symptoms of the following diseases for epilepsy because they may produce symptoms that are similar to those listed above:
- High temperature and symptoms of epilepsy
- Narcolepsy, or recurrent bouts of daytime sleepiness
- Periods of excessive muscle weakness are known as cataplexy.
- Sleep problems
- Panic disorders
- Fugue state is an uncommon mental health condition in which a person loses memory of specifics related to their identity.
seizures that have a psychological or psychiatric origin are known as psychogenic seizures.
The majority of epilepsy types currently have no known treatments.
Antiepileptic medications (AEDs) may be prescribed by a physician to assist treat epilepsy. Other potential treatments in the event that these medications are ineffective include surgery, vagus nerve stimulation, and a specific diet.
The goal of treatment is to stop additional seizures. In order for the person to live an active and productive life, they also work to prevent negative effects.
The American Epilepsy Society estimates that between 60 and 70 percent of cases with AED use show seizure control. Which specific medication the doctor prescribes will depend on the kind of seizure the patient experiences.
Most AEDs are consumed orally by patients. The following are typical drugs used to treat epilepsy:
- Acid valproate
It’s crucial to remember that while some medications may prevent seizures in one individual, they may not in another. Additionally, even after selecting the proper medication, determining the right dosage may take some time.
A physician might suggest epilepsy surgery if at least two drugs have failed to control seizures. According to a 2013 Swedish study, 62% of adults and 50% of children with epilepsy experienced a seven-year period without seizures following epilepsy surgery.
Some surgical alternatives, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeTrusted Source, include:
- A surgeon will perform a lobectomy during which the area of the brain that causes seizures will be removed. The oldest kind of epilepsy surgery is this one.
- In order to confine seizures to a specific area of the brain, a surgeon will perform many subpial transections.
- A surgeon will divide the brain’s two halves by performing a corpus callosotomy. By doing this, seizures are stopped from transferring from one side of the brain to the other.
- A hemisphere, or one-half of the cerebral cortex of the brain, may need to be removed in extreme circumstances by a surgeon.
Surgery may lessen the intensity and frequency of seizures in certain patients. Nevertheless, it is frequently crucial to keep taking antiseizure medicine for several years after the treatment.
Implanting a device in the chest to stimulate the vagus nerve in the lower neck is another surgical possibility. To lessen seizures, the device delivers electrical stimulation to the brain that has been preprogrammed.
Dietary changes may help to lessen seizures. According to a 2014 review of the literature published in the journal Neurology, high-fat, low-carb diets may be advantageous for both children and adults with epilepsy.
The ketogenic diet was employed in five of the research in the review, while a modified Atkins diet was used in five additional trials. These diets typically consist of eggs, bacon, avocados, cheese, almonds, seafood, certain fruits, and vegetables.
The research discovered that at least a 50% decrease in seizure frequency was seen by 32% of trial participants who followed the ketogenic diet and 29% of those who followed the modified Atkins diet. Many individuals, meanwhile, found it challenging to stick to these diets.
More research is required to confirm that some patients may benefit from particular diets.
Find out more about the investigation and how food affects epilepsy here.
Every bodily process is governed by messaging networks in the brain. A malfunction in this system, which may be the result of brain damage, leads to the development of epilepsy.
Professionals in the medical field frequently are unable to pinpoint the exact cause. Some persons are more likely to develop epilepsy due to genetic predispositions. Additional elements that could raise the risk include:
- Head injuries, such as those caused by car accidents
- Brain disorders such as tumors and stroke
- Disorders that are contagious, like viral encephalitis
- Brain impairment that develops during pregnancy or before birth
- Developmental disorders such as neurofibromatosis and autism
The CDC states that persons over 65 and children under 2 years old are more likely to develop epilepsy.
Epilepsy: Is it common?
According to the CDC, approximately 1.2%Trusted Source of Americans suffered from epilepsy in 2015. This equates to roughly 3.4 million persons, of which 3 million are adults and 470,000 are kids.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 50 million people worldwide suffer from epilepsy.
Sometimes, doctors can determine why a patient has seizures. Based on whether the reason can be identified, there are two primary categories of seizures:
- Idiopathic or cryptogenic: The doctor is unable to identify a cause or there is no obvious cause.
- The doctor is aware of the cause of the symptoms.
Depending on the region of the brain the seizure originates in, there are three seizure descriptors: partial, generalized, and secondary generalized. The extent and speed to which the electrical activity in the brain spreads from the original location will determine the person’s experience during a seizure.
More information on partial, generalized, and secondary generalized seizures is provided in the sections that follow.
When the epileptic activity just affects a portion of a person’s brain, it is called a partial seizure. Two varieties of partial seizures exist:
- Simple partial seizure: The person is awake and conscious during this kind of seizure. Even while the seizure is happening, individuals often are aware of their surroundings.
- Complex partial seizures: These affect a person’s ability to maintain consciousness. In most cases, they won’t recall the seizure. If they do, they won’t remember it clearly.
When the epileptic activity affects both hemispheres of the brain, a generalized seizure happens. Typically, while the seizure is happening, the person will pass out.
Generalized seizures come in a variety of subtypes, including:
- The most well-known form of generalized seizures, tonic-clonic seizures result in loss of consciousness, rigidity, and trembling of the body. Previously, doctors referred to these seizures as grand mal.
- Petit mal seizures, also known as absence seizures, are brief lapses in awareness during which the person seems to be staring off into space. Treatment for absence seizures frequently works successfully.
Tonic seizures: During tonic seizures, the person may trip and fall due to the stiffened muscles.
Atonic seizures: The person falls unexpectedly due to a loss of muscular tone.
Clonic seizures: This subtype is characterized by jerky, rhythmic movements, frequently in the face, one arm, or one leg.
Myoclonic seizures: This subtype results in an abrupt jerk or twitch of the arms or legs.
Generalized seizures that are secondary
When a partial seizure extends to both halves of the brain after starting as a partial seizure, it becomes a subsequent generalized seizure. The seizure will cause the victim to become unconscious.
To make a diagnosis of epilepsy, a doctor will examine a patient’s medical background, present symptoms, and a description and timeline of previous seizures.
In order to identify the person’s seizures and type of epilepsy, they may also ask for tests. The doctor will be able to suggest treatment choices, such as antiseizure drugs, based on these findings.
Examination for Epilepsy
An epilepsy diagnosis can be made by a clinician using a variety of imaging tests. These tests consist of:
- Using an EEG to check for unusual brain waves
- CT and MRI scans are used to look for malignancies and other structural issues.
- Functional MRI scans can reveal both typical and abnormal brain activity in particular regions.
- Single-photon emission CT scans, which could help determine where a seizure started in the brain.
- A magnetoencephalogram, which uses magnetic impulses to detect anomalies in brain activity.
Blood tests may also be used by the doctor to find any underlying disorders that may be the source of the epilepsy. A doctor may also use neurological testing to identify the patient’s specific type of epilepsy.
Is epilepsy inherited?
Around 70–80% of epilepsy cases, according to one 2015 research review trusted Source, are genetically based.
Over 900 genes were associated with epilepsy in a 2017 analysis of the literature. More studies are being conducted, which causes this number to increase. Indirect links between genes and epilepsy, brain abnormalities that might result in epilepsy, and other genetic diseases that can cause seizures are also possible.
Some people acquire hereditary characteristics. However, epilepsy can also develop in persons who have no family history of the disorder due to specific genetic abnormalities.
Sometimes a doctor will recommend genetic testing to identify the origin of epilepsy.
Seizures can be caused by a variety of things. In a 2014 study, the three most prevalent causes among the 104 participants were stress, lack of sleep, and exhaustion. Seizures can also be brought on by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and flickering lights.
Seizures are frequently brought on by stress, but the exact cause is unknown. This trigger was the subject of 2016 Trusted Source research published in the journal Science Signaling. Researchers discovered that mice with epilepsy behaved differently from those without in terms of how their brains responded to stress.
The study also discovered that the chemical that usually causes the brain to become less active in reaction to stress, became more active. Seizures may result from this.