Epilepsy – A Brain Disorder


Epilepsy is a brain disorder sometimes resulting in seizures, Epileptic Seizures can take on many different forms, and seizures affect different people in different ways. In Epilepsy clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally. Neurons normally generate electro-chemical impulses that act on other neurons, glands, and muscles to produce human thoughts, feelings, and actions. In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behavior, or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. Epilepsy is not contagious and is not caused by mental illness or mental retardation.

Causes of Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a disorder with many possible causes. Anything that disturbs the normal pattern of neuron activity, it may result from illness to brain damage to abnormal brain development and it can also lead to seizures. Epilepsy may develop because of following:-

  1. An abnormality in brain wiring
  2. An imbalance of nerve signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters
  3. Combination of these factors
  4. Genetic influence. Some types of epilepsy, which are categorized by the type of seizure you experience or the part of the brain that is affected, run in families.
  5. Head trauma. Head trauma as a result of a car accident or other traumatic injury can cause epilepsy.
  6. Infectious diseases. Infectious diseases, such as meningitis, AIDS and viral encephalitis, can cause epilepsy.
  7. Prenatal injury. Before birth, babies are sensitive to brain damage that could be caused by several factors, such as an infection in the mother, poor nutrition or oxygen deficiencies.

Causes of Epileptic Seizure

There are certain factors that are known to provoke seizures in people with epilepsy. Avoiding these triggers can help you avoid seizures and live better with epilepsy:-

  • Missing medication doses
  • Heavy alcohol, cocaine or other drug use such as ecstasy
  • Lack of sleep
  • Other drugs that interfere with seizure medications

Symptoms of Epilepsy

Signs of a seizure can be subtle or dramatic. The affected person could:

  1. Simply stare at nothing for a few seconds
  2. Lose consciousness
  3. Exhibit strange behavior (such as speaking nonsense)
  4. Convulse violently

Types of Epileptic Seizures

Seizures are generally described in two major groups of seizures, primary generalized seizures and partial seizures. The difference between these types is in how and where they begin. A new way of naming seizures has been developed by epilepsy specialists, but most often these common names are still used.

  1. Primary generalized seizures. Primary generalized seizures begin with a widespread electrical discharge that involves both sides of the brain at once. Hereditary factors are important in many of these seizures.
  2. Partial seizures. Partial seizures begin with an electrical discharge in one limited area of the brain. Many different things can cause partial seizures, for example head injury, brain infection, stroke, tumor, or changes in the way an area of the brain was formed before birth (called cortical dysplasias). Many times, no known cause is found, but genetic factors may be important in some partial seizures.

Treatment of Epilepsy.

Accurate diagnosis of the type of epilepsy a person has is crucial for finding an effective treatment. There are many different ways to treat epilepsy. Currently available treatments can control seizures at least some of the time in about 80 percent of people with epilepsy.

  1. Medication. Most people with epilepsy can become seizure-free by taking one anti-seizure medication, called anti-epileptic medication. Others may be able to decrease the frequency and intensity of their seizures by taking a combination of medications. Your doctor will advise you about the appropriate time to stop taking medications. More than half the children with epilepsy who aren’t experiencing epilepsy symptoms can eventually discontinue medications and live a seizure-free life. Many adults also can discontinue medications after two or more years without seizures.
  2. Surgery. When seizures cannot be adequately controlled by medications, doctors may recommend that the person be evaluated for surgery. Surgery for epilepsy is performed by teams of doctors at medical centers. To decide if a person may benefit from surgery, doctors consider the type or types of seizures he or she has.
  3. Ketogenic Diet. The ketogenic diet is one treatment option for children with epilepsy whose seizures are not controlled with AEDs. The diet may help to reduce the number or severity of seizures and can often have positive effects on behaviour.
  4. Deep brain stimulation. Deep brain stimulation therapy is a surgical treatment which aims to reduce seizures not controlled with medication, and where surgery to treat the cause of seizures is not possible. It involves implanting electrodes into specific areas of the brain.
  5. Vagus nerve stimulation. Vagus Nerve Stimulation therapy uses a pulse generator to send mild electrical stimulations to the vagus nerve with the aim of reducing the number, length and severity of seizures.

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