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Epilepsy

Definition, Symptoms, Treatment and more


Overview

Epilepsy mean “seizure disorder”, so people with epilepsy have recurring and unpredictable seizures. In layman terms this disease is called fits. A seizure is a period where the cells in the brain or neurons, are synchronously active, or active at the same time, when they’re not supposed to be. The sudden electrical disturbance in brain is uncontrollable. It causes changes in behavior, movements and level of consciousness. Epileptic seizures are the episodes of involuntary movements of muscles that can vary from a short episode of undetectable period to long hours of vigorous shaking. These episodes generally recur and can result into physical injuries too like abrasions due to fall, tongue bite etc.
Having a seizure does not mean that a person has epilepsy always. Research suggests that there is 70% probability of youths having epilepsy, and 30% chances of others to develop after the age of 50.



Types

People with epilepsy experience recurring episodes of some form of seizures, and the grouping of seizures is generally based on the region of the brain it is affected. The epileptic seizures are classified into two main types according to the area of brain where the abnormal electrical impulses takes place

Focal Seizures

When the affected area is limited to one hemisphere –or one half of the brain – or sometimes even a smaller area like a lobe, we call it ‘partial or focal’ seizure. The can be further categorized into simple partial and complex partial types. Typical symptoms may include: strange sensations, jerking movements in specific muscle groups, impaired awareness etc.

Generalized Seizures

These occur when both hemispheres are affected. Sometimes, a seizure may start out as a focal seizure and then quickly develop into a generalized seizure.  And in these situations it can also be called as a secondary generalized seizure. This is further divided into six types namely

Tonic – stiffened muscles
Atonic – floppy muscles
Clonic – violent muscle contractions/ convulsions
Tonic + Clonic – combination of tense and relaxed muscles
Myoclonic – short muscle twitches
Absence (Petit mal) – Loose and regain consciousness

If these seizures last for a longer period of time like over 5 minutes of ongoing seizures or having multiple seizures without returning to normal in between, then it’s called ‘ status epilepticus’ . This can be life threatening and must be treated immediately.


Signs & Symptoms

Following the seizure patients often experience
Confusion
Paralysis that affects the arms and the legs

The signs & symptoms of epileptic seizures vary from person to person and also differ according to the types of seizures and the duration for which they last. Anxiety and depression can also creep into the symptoms of someone suffering from recurring seizure. The general symptoms observed are:

Involuntary & uncontrollable jerking movements of limbs
Episode of unconsciousness
Temporary confusion
Staring
Tongue biting
Frothing from mouth
Stiffness of muscles
Sudden falling down and loosing body control
Loss of control on bladder & bowel
Subjective experiences – Fears or Smell

At times, after the episode of seizures, a patient may not even remember of having any such episode but may feel very drained, ill and low for a significant period of time.


Causes Or Risk Factors

Typically, the known causes of seizure involve some injury to the brain although this may not be the only reason for it. In more than 50% cases apparent reasons for the cause of epilepsy is unknown. Some causes can be

Genetic defects
Stroke
Head Injury
Brain Tumor
Infections of Central Nervous System
Malnutrition
Alcohol abuse
Drug abuse
Hypoxia during birth (lack of oxygen to baby while delivery)

Apart from these, there are few triggers such as fever; insomnia, fasting periods, stress, bright lights etc. often increase the risk of seizures.



Diagnosis and Treatment

Due to the severity of seizures, patients are often treated acutely with benzodiazepines. Since Epilepsy is quite self-explanatory it can be diagnosed easily but identifying the exact cause of the seizures to begin with can improve the effectiveness of any treatment ahead. For this, the various tests such as an EEG (Electroencephalogram), MRI or Neuro Imagining is used. Although it’s a common disease, 70% of the patients live a seizure free life if they are diagnosed and treated properly. The treatment protocol consists of treatment of actual seizures along with managing of other injuries that occur during the seizure episodes. Here are a few treatment options administered:

Oral medication (Anticonvulsants)
Diet & lifestyle modification
Surgical intervention in case the cause of seizures is any tumor or something similar
First Aid during seizure episodes like giving a mouth gag to avoid tongue bite, immediate management of blood loss if any etc.

Chronic nervous system disorders like epilepsy need a specialist opinion for its correction. Misdiagnosis of epilepsy remains common and the consequences for the individual significant. We can help you connect with our neurology specialist for a second opinion on your condition, so reach out!

If you wish to speak to our doctor for a second opinion regarding this disorder, don’t hesitate to call us directly on +919823440640 or fill in a request ‘here‘ for us to get in touch with you.


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