You may have overheard someone say they are undergoing treatment for epilepsy. But what does this mean? Epilepsy is a
central nervous system (neurological) disorder that results in seizures and can significantly affect an individual’s life. Read on to learn more about this condition and its causes, symptoms, and impact on daily life.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by abnormal brain activity and results in unprovoked, repeated seizures or episodes of strange behaviour or loss of consciousness. Status epilepticus is the term used to describe these episodes. After roughly 30 minutes of status epilepticus, severe aberrant electrical activity in the brain region causes permanent neurological damage.
Epilepsy is a condition that affects all age groups. It is advisable to seek professional help if an individual experience two or more seizures without any other symptoms. A generalized tonic-clonic seizure that lasts five minutes or longer is considered a medical emergency. Permanent harm or death may result if attacks cannot be stopped or if episodes frequently happen one after another.
Symptoms of epilepsy
The symptoms of epilepsy are classified according to the type of seizures experienced by an individual. Here are some signs and symptoms of epilepsy:
- Temporary spells of confusion
- Stiff muscles
- Uncontrollable jerking movements of legs and arms
- Loss of awareness or consciousness
- Abnormal levels of emotions such as anxiety and fear
- Difficulty in connecting emotionally with others
Seizures can develop in any individual at any age, and the symptoms will remain consistent across episodes. In most situations, an individual with epilepsy tends to experience the same type of seizure every time. A diagnosis of epilepsy typically requires at least two unprovoked attacks that occur at least 24 hours apart.
Causes of epilepsy
Most individuals have no identifiable cause of epilepsy, but experts attribute the condition to various factors.
Biological and genetic factors
- Genes: Some forms of epilepsy can run in families. Classification of epilepsy is the type of seizure or the area of the brain affected.
- Developmental disorders: Individuals with autism and other developmental disorders are more likely to develop epilepsy.
- Abnormalities in the brain: Brain tumours or abnormalities such as vascular, arteriovenous, and cavernous corpus malformations can lead to epilepsy.
- Head injuries: Epilepsy can be caused by trauma to the lead following a car crash or severe accident.
- Prenatal injury: In the womb, fetuses are susceptible to brain damage caused by various factors, including maternal infection, malnutrition, and oxygen deficiency. It can lead to the development of epilepsy.
- Infections: Viral encephalitis, meningitis, AIDS, and certain parasitic infections can cause epilepsy.
Effects of epilepsy
The primary effects of epilepsy on an individual’s daily life include the following:
- Reduced mobility
- Difficulty in maintaining relationships
- Disruptions in school attendance and social interactions
Here are some typical warning signs that a seizure is about to occur:
- The individual becomes highly sensitive to sounds, scents, or sights
- The level of anxiety increases
- The individual feels nauseated
- The individual has spells of dizziness
- The individual experiences alterations in vision.
Treatment of epilepsy
There is no cure for epilepsy at present. However, medication sometimes may manage the symptoms, therapy, and self-care.
Various factors increase the possibility of seizures that the individual can control, including emotional stress, sleep deprivation, and substance abuse. There are certain aspects to consider when it comes to episodes:
- All seizures are not life-threatening.
- Concentrate on safety when assisting an individual having a stroke.
- Give the individual a seizure space, eliminate sharp and complex items, and protect their head during the attack.
- Never attempt to restrain an individual having a seizure or place anything in their mouth.
- Guide the individual having a seizure away from dangers such as sharp objects, vehicles, stairs, or other hazards only if the attack is mild.
- Never leave an individual having a seizure alone.
There are also lifestyle changes that an individual with epilepsy can make to manage their symptoms. They can:
In a professional setting, a doctor will attempt to understand the individual’s symptoms and choose the proper treatment method, ranging from medications to therapy.
However, the medications prescribed for epilepsy depend on the type of seizures and the age and gender of the individual. Anti-epileptic drugs are commonly given for the treatment of epilepsy.
A doctor might recommend brain surgery if medicines don’t help decrease seizures and tests reveal brain tumour abnormalities.
In addition, psychological therapies are an effective treatment method to improve the well-being of an individual with epilepsy. It helps them regulate their thought processes, improving their emotional state and behaviour.
Moreover, realization and acceptance are necessary to manage the symptoms of an individual with epilepsy. If you feel you or someone you know has epilepsy or similar symptoms, it is best to seek professional help immediately.