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Causes and Treatment of Epilepsy

Updated on August 19, 2017

Ranked as the fourth most common neurological disorder, an estimated 50 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with epilepsy. This condition affects the brain causing frequent seizures.

Epilepsy is described my MedicineNet as “a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally causing strong sensations, emotions, and behavior, or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness.”

Transcranial magnetic stimulation
Transcranial magnetic stimulation | Source

The most common symptom of epilepsy is repeated seizures. The seizures are unprovoked thereby meaning they tend to happen unexpectedly. Nevertheless, not all people who have seizures as a symptom imply they have epilepsy. If you have had more than two unprovoked seizures, then you probably have epilepsy.

NHS notes, “The cells in the brain, known as neurons, communicate with each other using electrical impulses. During a seizure, the electrical impulses are disrupted, which can cause the brain and body to behave strangely.”

The severity of seizures differs from one person to another depending on the size of the brain affected. The seizures can occur when a person is awake or when asleep.

Types of seizures

There are two types of seizures:

Focal Seizures

Focal seizures start at a specific location or one area of the brain. In this type of seizure only a part of the brain is affected.

Generalized seizures

Unlike the focal seizures, in the case of generalized seizures both sides of the brain are affected at the same time.

Unknown seizures

There are seizures which do not fit into any of the above two types of seizure. These seizures are known as unknown since their point of origin in the brain is not known. In addition, if nobody witnessed a seizure in the affected person then it falls under this type of seizure.

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Epileptic seizure
Epileptic seizure | Source

Classification of seizures

Epilepsy is categorized into three types:

Symptomatic Epilepsy

In this type of epilepsy the cause is known as the symptoms manifested indicate there is damage to the brain. There is an underlying problem such as metabolic disorder, tumor or head injury.

Cryptogenic Epilepsy

The cause of the epilepsy is not known though there is the likelihood the brain was damaged, for example, as a result of injury.

Idiopathic Epilepsy

No apparent cause of the epilepsy is known.


Causes of epilepsy

The following are the causes of epilepsy:

  • Disease/illness
  • Poisoning
  • Brain tumors
  • Abnormal brain development
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer
  • Heart attack
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Prenatal injury
  • Head injury

There are some situations which can trigger seizures such as lack of sleep, consumption of alcohol, stroke or as stated by MedicineNet, “human changes associated with the menstrual cycle.”

Living with epilepsy-My story

Diagnosis and Treatment of Epilepsy

A person is not diagnosed until he/she has had more than one seizure. The seizures should not have been caused by any known medical condition such as low blood sugar.

Epilepsy Foundation is quick to note, “The seizures in epilepsy may be related to a brain injury or a family tendency, but often the cause is completely unknown. The word “epilepsy” does not indicate anything about the cause of the person’s seizures or their severity.”

Most cases of epilepsy are diagnosed when the patient describes about his/her seizures to the neurologist or GP. Scans may be used but they’re not overly relied on. Some of the scans include: Electroencephalogram (EEG) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Epilepsy has no cure. The medicines used which are known as anti-epileptic drugs (AEDS) are used to control the seizures.

Epilepsy
Epilepsy | Source

In addition to AEDS used as a form of treatment to control the seizures, surgery may be recommended to remove an area of the brain affected or an electrical device may be used in order to control the seizures.

According to NHS, treatment is not necessary if the seizures last for a short time and are not intrusive.

Epilepsy can be controlled by avoiding triggers which induce seizures such as lack of sleep (sleep deprivation) and alcohol consumption.

It should be noted not all people experience seizures always. For some it occurs occasionally while for others it can occur once and disappears.

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