A Disorder That Has No Cure: Epilepsy
Many of you must be familiar with the medical term, Epilepsy but may not be aware of its severity. Therefore, we will have a brief discussion on it, such as how much population is affected by such disorder, what is the outcome of being affected by it, its symptoms, diagnosis, the reason behind its occurrence and many more. So let’s start with its definition.
What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a type of neurological(central nervous system) disorder which results in the abnormal brain activity, seizures or periods of unusual behaviour, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness. Such disorder can occur irrespective of gender or races.
Seizure symptoms may vary extensively. Some people who have epilepsy show its signs by simply staring blankly for a few seconds, while others repeatedly twitch their arms or legs. A person suffering from a single seizure doesn't mean you have epilepsy. For an epilepsy diagnosis, a person should have at least two unprovoked seizures.
Majority of the people suffering from seizures can control its symptoms with the help of treatment with medications or sometimes surgery. In some case, people may require lifelong treatment to control seizures, but for others, the seizures eventually go away. Whereas in some children, the condition of epilepsy increases with age.
There are a few symptoms of Epilepsy which generally depends on the type of seizures. So for better understanding before going on to the symptoms lets have a look at the type of seizures.
Types Of Seizures
Seizures are mainly classified based on the abnormal activity of the brain and are generally classified as either focal or generalized.
Focal(Partial) seizures: It is a type of seizure in which the abnormal activity occurs only in just one part of the brain; you can also call it a partial seizure. Such type of seizure is further subdivided into two categories, such as:-
- Simple Partial Seizure: It is a type of partial seizure in which the patient does not losses its consciousness but alters the emotions or change the way things look, smell, feel, taste or sound.
It may also lead to the involuntary jerking of a body part, such as an arm or leg, and spontaneous sensory symptoms such as tingling, dizziness and flashing lights.
- Complex Partial Seizure: Such type of seizures causes impaired awareness and the person may stare into space without normal responses or may show repetitive movements, such as chewing, swallowing, rubbing, or walking in circles.
You may get confused with the symptoms of focal seizures as they seem similar to other neurological disorders, such as narcolepsy or mental illness. Therefore, a thorough check-up is necessary in order to distinguish between epilepsy and other neurological disorders for the best possible treatment.
Generalized Seizure: Epilepsy occurs due to seizure, and if seizure affects your entire brain, it is called a generalized seizure. There are all in a total of six types of generalized seizure, which are as follows:-
- Absence seizures: It generally occurs in clusters and leads to a severe loss of awareness which mainly affects children. Starring at space or subtle body movements, such as eye blinking or lip-smacking is some of the characteristics of absence seizures.
- Tonic seizures: It is a type of seizure that affects your entire brain in such a manner causing stiffening of your muscles especially of your back, arms and legs. As a result, it restricts your motion causing you to fall to the ground.
- Atonic seizures: It is also known as drop seizures as it results in a loss of muscle control, which may cause you to suddenly collapse or fall down.
- Clonic seizures: Clonic seizures affect the brain in such a manner causing it to jerk the muscle movements repeatedly. It mainly affects the neck, face and arms.
- Myoclonic seizures: Such type of seizure results in sudden, brief jerks or twitches of your arms and legs.
- Tonic-clonic seizures: It is a type of epileptic seizure that results in an abrupt loss of consciousness, body stiffening, shaking, and it can also lead to loss of bladder control or biting your tongue. It is also known as grand mal seizures.
What Are The Epilepsy Symptoms?
In order to get the best possible treatment, first, it is important to know about the disorder. The signs of epilepsy depend on the seizures and its types. Therefore, the symptoms of epilepsy are as follows:-
Simple Partial Seizure: It doesn’t result in loss of consciousness, but it may lead to:-
- alterations in the sense of taste, smell, sight, hearing, or touch
- tingling and twitching of limbs
Complex Partial Seizure: The symptoms of complex partial seizure include:-
- staring blankly
- performing repetitive movements
Absence seizures: The symptoms of absence seizure include:-
- Blank stare
- Sometimes loss of awareness.
Tonic seizures: Symptoms of Tonic seizure involves muscle stiffness.
Atonic seizures: Such type of seizure leads to:-
- Loss of control over muscles
- A person may fall suddenly.
Clonic seizures: It’s symptoms are:-
- Repeated jerking of muscle movements of face, neck, and arms.
Myoclonic seizures: It results in spontaneous twisting of arms and legs.
Tonic-clonic seizures: Its symptoms include:-
- Stiffening of the body
- Shaking of the entire body
- Loss of bowel control
- Biting of the tongue
- Loss of consciousness
What Causes Epilepsy?
In most of the cases of Epilepsy(6 out of 10), its cause is not known, but it is estimated that such neurological disorder may occur due to various reasons, such as:-
- Traumatic brain injury
- post-traumatic epilepsy(scarring on the brain after the brain injury)
- severe illness
- Very high fever
- stroke(it is a leading cause of epilepsy in people over age 35)
- Vascular diseases
- Lack of oxygen to the brain
- Brain tumour or cyst
- Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
- Use of the maternal drug
- Prenatal injury
- Brain malformation
- Lack of oxygen during birth
- Infectious diseases such as AIDS and meningitis
- Genetic or developmental disorders or neurological diseases
In most of the cases, the cause of such mental disorders remains unknown. But few directions(analysis) can help you in preventing epilepsy if you are suffering from it. It is because the consequences are rapid and sudden. Also, the reasons are unknown in most of the cases. Therefore, apart from medication, you need to know about the things that trigger epilepsy.
What Are The Things That Triggers Epilepsy?
Things that trigger the symptoms of epilepsy can be a single symptom or a combination of factors. In order to know about these things, it is important to notice(examine) a few things at the time of stroke, such as:-
- Day and time
- What all activity you did on that day
- Try to remember things that were happening around you
- Unusual sights, smells, or sounds
- Uncertain stressors
- What you were eating
- The time duration between your meal and the stroke
- Most important your level of fatigue and how well you slept the night before
The main motive behind doing this activity is to know about the things that increased the risk of stroke, such as:-
- Lack of sleep
- Illness or fever
- Mental or physical stress
- Bright lights, flashing lights, or patterns
- Consumption of too much caffeine, alcohol, medicines, or drugs
- skipping meals, overeating, or specific food ingredients
How Can I Diagnose Epilepsy?
Epilepsy symptoms can result in severe mental issues, therefore, immediately consult the doctor in case you experience it. The doctor may ask you about your medical history. The doctor may ask you to undergo a neurological examination in order to test your motor skills and mental functioning.
For epilepsy diagnosis, the doctor needs to know about other conditions that cause seizures and will probably prescribe a blood test to know:-
- Complete blood count
- Chemistry of the blood.
- Any signs of infectious diseases
- The functioning of liver and kidney
- Level of glucose in the blood
There are other tests that your doctor may ask you to undergo may also, such as:-
Electroencephalogram (EEG): It is the most common test that helps in diagnosing epilepsy. Initially, electrodes are attached to your scalp with a paste without a noninvasive pain.
This test is sometimes performed during sleep and the doctor may ask you to perform some activity during the test. The electrodes attached to your scalp will record the electrical activity of your brain. The recorded data will determine whether you’re having a seizure or not.
Tumours and other abnormalities can also be a reason for the severe seizure. Therefore, imaging tests are preferred to reveal them, such as:-
- CT scan
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
- Single-photon emission computerized tomography
How Can You Treat Epilepsy?
There’s no cure for epilepsy, but early treatment can help in reducing the symptoms of it. Epilepsy if not treated, may damage your brain and also increases the risk of sudden unexplained death. But such disorders can be successfully managed and controlled with the help of medication.
Such medication cannot cure epilepsy, but it may reduce the frequency and severity of it. These medicines are consumed orally with a glass of water which further gets absorbed by the stomach, travelling through the bloodstreams it finally reaches to the brain affecting the neurotransmitters in such a way that it reduces the symptoms of epilepsy.
The example of such medicines are as follows:-
- Levetiracetam (Keppra)
- Lamotrigine (Lamictal)
- Topiramate (Topamax)
- Valproic acid (Depakote)
- Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
- Ethosuximide (Zarontin)
- Encorate Chrono
Apart from the medications, the treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms, health, and your response to the therapy, such as:-
- Vagus nerve stimulator: It is a device that electrically stimulates the nerves through the chest and neck to the brains. It is placed surgically under the skin on the chest to help prevent seizures.
- Ketogenic diet: Most of the patients who have epilepsy help themselves to reduce the symptoms of it by consuming a ketogenic diet, having high fat and low cholesterol.
- Brain Surgery: Surgery of the brain in which the seizure affected part is removed or altered.
Since the reason for epilepsy is not yet specific and so is the treatment, the research is going on for the treatment of such neurological disorders. In the coming days, treatment may be in which electrodes are placed in your brains along with a generator which is implanted in your chest in order to generate electrical impulses to help detect and decrease seizures.
Another treatment that may help in reducing the symptoms of epilepsy in the coming days is a pacemaker-like device that checks the pattern of the brain activity with the help of electrical charges(impulses).