What is Epilepsy?

A chronic disorder where a patient experiences recurrent, unprovoked seizures are termed epilepsy. Whenever the brain experiences a sudden rush of electric activity, epileptic seizures happen. Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder that is manageable with treatments.

While mild seizure attacks are undetectable, severe seizures lead to uncontrolled muscle twitches and spasms. In general, men are more likely to suffer from epilepsy as compared to women. In this article, we will take a look at the epilepsy causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention in detail. 

Epilepsy Symptoms, Types and Treatment

Epilepsy - Types, Causes, Potential Triggers & Treatment

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About Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder where the patients routinely suffer from unprovoked, recurrent seizures. These epileptic seizures happen when there is a sudden rush of electric activity towards the brain. In medical terms, there are two types of seizures:

  1. Generalised Seizures: Affect the whole brain

  2. Partial Seizures: Affect a part of the brain

Mild seizure attacks are difficult to detect and can last for a few seconds. However, severe seizures can lead to spasms and uncontrolled muscle twitches, lasting from a few seconds to several minutes. In some severe seizure cases, people lose their consciousness and have no memory of the same later.

Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder in children and older people. Men are more likely to suffer from it as compared to women. While there is no cure for epilepsy as of today, the disorder is manageable with treatments and other remedies. In this section, we will walk you through epilepsy causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention in detail. Let’s take a look at epilepsy symptoms.

Types of Epilepsy and Symptoms

A seizure is one of the most apparent and main epilepsy symptoms. However, other epilepsy symptoms can vary, depending on the two epilepsy types.

1. Generalised Seizures

Generalised seizure affects the brain completely and is of six types.

 

  • Absence Seizure: It is also known as a petit mal seizure. Absence seizure leads to repetitive lip-smacking or blinking. The person suffering from it can also lose a sense of awareness for a short period.

  • Tonic Seizure: It causes stiffness in muscles.

  • Atonic Seizure: It leads to muscle control and can make the suffering individual collapse.

  • Clonic Seizure: It causes repetitive muscle movements in the face, neck, and arms.

  • Myoclonic Seizure: It causes sudden quick twitches in the arms and legs.

  • Tonic-Clonic Seizure: It is also known as a grand mal seizure. Tonic-Clonic seizures can cause body stiffness, shaking, loss of bladder control, tongue biting, and loss of consciousness.

Anyone suffering from any of these seizures tends to not remember the incident or may feel ill for a few hours.

2. Partial Seizure

In partial seizure, the patient does not lose his/her consciousness. However, the symptoms for the same are as follows:

 

  • Changes in sense of taste, smell, vision, hearing, or touch

  • Constant dizziness

  • Limb twitches

But if the partial seizure is severe, it can lead to loss of awareness or consciousness. Further, the symptoms may include:

 

  • Blank staring

  • Unresponsiveness

  • Repetitive movements

Epilepsy Causes

There are several causes of epilepsy and it is usually hard to determine what exactly causes it in an individual. Some common epilepsy causes are:

 

  • Traumatic brain injury

  • Scarring on the brain after suffering from a brain injury

  • Critical health conditions or very high fever

  • Strokes

  • Vascular diseases

  • Insufficient oxygen supply to the brain

  • Brain tumour or cyst

  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease

  • Maternal drug use, prenatal injury, brain malformation, or lack of oxygen supply at birth

  • Infectious diseases such as AIDS

  • Genetic disorders or other neurological diseases

Is Epilepsy Hereditary?

Another prominent cause for most types of epilepsy is heredity. If anyone in your family has an epilepsy condition developed genetically, chances are that you can suffer from the same in the future. However, in most cases, genetics also provide a natural seizure threshold. Those who inherit a low seizure threshold are more vulnerable to seizure triggers.

The risk of inheriting epilepsy is low. Most people suffering from epilepsy do not have children born with the same conditions. Besides, if someone in your family has developed epilepsy conditions due to other causes such as brain injury or stroke, it does not mean you might suffer the same in the future.

Moreover, epilepsy does not affect one’s ability to have children.

What Triggers Epilepsy

At times, people with epilepsy conditions can identify things around them that could be potential triggers for their seizures. Some of the most common epileptic triggers are:

 

  • Lack of sleep

  • Severe illness or high fever

  • Stress

  • Bright lights

  • Caffeine, alcohol, or drugs

  • Skipping meals or overeating

People often mistake a single incident to be a trigger for an epileptic seizure. Usually, a seizure is a combination of different factors. You can maintain a journal to find what triggers your epilepsy seizures. Ensure that you note the following things in the journal.

 

  • Date and time

  • What was the activity?

  • What was happening around?

  • Was there any unusual sights, smells, or sounds?

  • Were you stressed?

  • What were you eating, or how have you been skipping your meals?

  • Did you sleep well the night before?

The journal will help you and your doctor to evaluate whether the seizure treatment and medication are working.

Diagnosis of Epilepsy

It is recommended that you should get a doctor’s consultation as soon as you suspect a seizure attack. A seizure can be a signalling symptom of a severe health condition. When you visit the doctor, they may ask you about your medical history and other symptoms and you should be fully honest with them to get the right diagnosis. They might also advise you to undergo a neurological exam that tests your motor skills and mental functionalities.

To diagnose epilepsy, other health conditions that lead to seizures are to be eliminated. The doctor can ask you to take a blood test, which is used to determine the following:

  • Any signs of an infectious disease

  • Liver and kidney functions

  • Blood glucose levels

Another common test used for epilepsy diagnosis is the Electroencephalogram (EEG) test. Here, electrodes are attached to your scalp. Don't worry! It is a painless examination. You will be further guided to perform some tasks. In some cases, this test is performed when you are asleep.

The electrodes record the brain activity, further helping your doctor to determine whether you have a seizure. Abnormal brain waves are one of the most common signs of epilepsy. Besides, CT scans and MRIs can help determine tumours and other abnormalities that lead to seizure attacks.

Epilepsy Treatment

While epilepsy is incurable, the symptoms are manageable. The doctor will assign you an epilepsy treatment plan based on the severity of your symptoms, health condition, and response to the said therapy. A few treatments for epilepsy include the following:

 

  • Anti-Epileptic Drugs

A course of these medications reduces the occurrence of seizures. In some people, it may eliminate seizures. However, consult your doctor for an appropriate prescription.

  • Vagus Nerve Stimulator

It’s a device that is surgically placed under the skin on the chest. It is known to electrically stimulate nerves in the neck and prevent seizure attacks.

  • Ketogenic Diet

Most people have seen a significant improvement by following a ketogenic diet, which is a high-fat and low-carb diet.

  • Brain Surgery

The part of the brain that leads to seizures can be surgically removed.

There is ongoing research on treatments for epilepsy. A treatment that most researchers are working towards is deep brain stimulation. This procedure will involve implanting electrodes into the brain and a generator in the chest. The generator will send electrical impulses to the brain and help prevent seizures.

Another research-based treatment involves developing a pacemaker-like device that tracks patterns of brain activity and then sends an electric charge or drug to manage the seizures.

Home Remedies for Epilepsy

If you are diagnosed with epilepsy, understanding the disease better will help you control its symptoms. Some lifestyle-related changes and home remedies to follow include:

 

  • Take your medications

Avoid making adjustments to your medications before consulting the doctor. If you feel the need for changing your treatment course, discuss the same with your doctor in the next appointment.

  • Get rest

Since lack of sleep is one of the triggers for epileptic seizures, you must get enough sleep at night.

  • Always wear a medical alert bracelet

In cases of emergencies, it allows medical experts to understand your condition and treat you accordingly.

  • Get active

Exercising improves your physical and mental strength and reduces anxiety and depression. Besides, drink enough water and get some rest.

Besides opting for healthy lifestyle choices, look for ways to manage your stress, limit alcohol intake, and avoid smoking.

Epilepsy Medicine

There are several epilepsy medications that can be used by patients to reduce their symptoms and subside their seizures. The most common medicines used by people suffering from epilepsy are anti-seizure medications that help them reduce the frequency and intensity of the seizures. These medications are available in the form of tablets or liquid or injections. However, these medications should only be taken when recommended by your doctor. It is also important to note that these medications may also have undesirable side effects such as fatigue, depression, dizziness, etc.

Prevention of Epilepsy

The preventive measures for epilepsy mainly revolve around several coping mechanisms and support. Epileptic seizures mustn't hold you back from living your life. To lead an active routine, here are a few things that can help:

  • Educate yourself and the people around you

You and the people you interact with most often know details about the condition. That way, it helps in managing crucial situations when they arise.

  • Avoid negative thoughts

As you learn about epilepsy, you will come across several misconceptions and facts. You must be able to differentiate facts from myths.

  • Avoid constant worry

You need to keep your mind away from constantly worrying about the seizure. Indulge in activities you like, which will further help you build your confidence.

  • Find epilepsy support groups

Try to meet people with similar conditions so that you have a safe space to share your story and opinions.

Conclusion

Epilepsy is a serious medical condition that needs a lot of attention and care to manage. While this condition can make life difficult for the patients, the right treatments and prevention measures can also make this much easier. If you or someone you know is diagnosed with epilepsy, ensure appropriate medical guidance and a best-in-class healthcare facility is readily available. However, disorders like epilepsy come with a lot of financial stress but being prepared for it means having a stable insurance plan in place to take care of any medical needs that may arise. A good health insurance plan can help you take care of medical expenses while you focus on caring for your loved ones. 

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FAQs on Epilepsy

  • ✔️What causes epilepsy?

    Some common causes of epilepsy are:

    1. Traumatic brain injury

    2. High fever

    3. Strokes

    4. Insufficient oxygen supply to the brain

    5. Vascular diseases

  • ✔️What are the different epilepsy types?

    Following are the types of epilepsy:

    1. Focal epilepsy

    2. Generalised epilepsy

    3. Combination of focal and generalised epilepsy

    4. Unknown epilepsy

  • ✔️What are some home treatments for epilepsy?

    You can treat epilepsy at home by:

    1. Regularly taking epilepsy medication (on doctor’s approval)

    2. Getting plenty of rest

    3. Exercising

    4. Following a keto diet

  • ✔️Which medicine should I take for epilepsy?

    You should consult your doctor to get the right medicine for your epilepsy treatment. Do not try to get medicines on your own without consulting a doctor.

  • ✔️Can epilepsy be cured?

    As of now, there is no sure cure for epilepsy. However, the symptoms of epilepsy can be managed through medication and treatment.