Everything You Need to Know About Epilepsy
Here is what you need to know about epilepsy
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that triggers abnormal brain activity, causing recurrent and unprovoked seizures. It occurs due to the sudden interruption of the brain’s electrical activity, provoking temporary disturbance that manifests in the form of seizures.
Types of epilepsy
Seizures affect the brain from both sides. Under this group lies two basic kinds of seizures: generalized motor seizures and generalized non-motor seizures. Your doctor may dig into specifics and mention tonic-clonic, tonic, clonic, and myoclonic under generalized motor seizures. Under the non-motor category, there are typical, myoclonic, and atypical seizures.
Seizures start from a specific area on one side of the brain. They come in four categories: focal aware seizures, focal motor seizures, focal non-motor seizures, and focal impaired awareness seizures.
Generalized and focal epilepsy
It’s a type of epilepsy where an individual suffers from both generalized and focal seizures.
Unknown if generalized or focal epilepsy
It occurs when your doctor confirms you have epilepsy but can’t point a finger whether the seizures are focal or generalized.
Symptoms of epilepsy
Generalized motor epilepsy
- Unconsciousness and collapses
- Confusion after regaining consciousness.
- Body stiffening.
- Violent body jerking.
- Deep sleep.
Generalized non-motor epilepsy
- Brief loss of consciousness.
- Period of inactivity and blank stares into space
- Loss of bladder control.
- Impaired awareness.
- Altered senses.
- Involuntary and coordinated body part movements tend to be repetitive and purposeless such as chewing, wandering, and fidgeting.
- Muscle rigidity, head-turning, and body stiffening
- Psychological triggers, such as emotions and memories
Implications of epilepsy
Epilepsy left untreated causes impaired quality of life. These seizures occur without warning and may cause severe physical and mental injuries. They lead to accidents and trauma that may render an individual disabled and unable to carry on with regular daily activities. Some end up losing their jobs and remain unemployable due to mental and physical instability. Since these uncontrolled seizures may erupt without warning, there is an acute need to have someone around the patient. This burden of dependability limits an individual’s true potential.
Complications of the disease
Potential complications highly depend on when and where you have these seizures. They include physical injuries such as falls, burns, drowning, and car accidents. More severe problems include broken bones, head injuries with bleeding into the brain, brain damage, difficulty breathing, and concussions. In some cases, problems that occur after or during a seizure, such as inhaling vomit, may cause death.
Some patients with epilepsy will fall into emotional stability with suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety. Although rare, seizures that are prolonged or repeated can result in permanent brain damage or death.
Diagnosis of epilepsy
Seizures do not necessarily mean that you have epilepsy. For this reason, your doctor will diagnose your condition to find out if the seizures are caused by epilepsy and the type of epilepsy affecting you. Diagnosis entails:
Your doctor will examine your behavior, mental function, and motor abilities to confirm that you have epilepsy.
The technique records all electrical activity being transmitted in your brain. It records unusual waves in the activity patterns. When studied and analyzed correctly, it identifies the specific type of epilepsy shown by the patterns.
Blood samples may reveal signs of infections, genetic conditions, and other underlying issues that may be linked to seizures.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI) and Computed Tomography Scans
Depending on the symptoms, your doctor may recommend the CT scan or MRI scan to have a detailed view of your brain.
Other routine lab tests may be used to cancel out other medical conditions that may be triggering the seizures. They include:
- Toxicology screening shows the presence of drugs, toxins, and poisons.
- Complete blood count tests.
- Lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, rules out possible infections like meningitis.
Treatment of epilepsy
These drugs work by reducing the frequency and intensity of seizures. Your doctor will prescribe the medication and advice on when to stop taking them. Often, your physician will prescribe a relatively low dosage in the beginning and gradually increase it, depending on your reaction.
It’s a resort taken after medication fails to provide sufficient control over the seizures. Surgical intervention involves removing the area of the brain that triggers these seizures. Surgeons will operate if tests show that your seizures emanate from a distinct and small area of the brain. Also, the brain’s target area shouldn’t interfere with vital functions such as vision, language, hearing, and speech.
Deep brain stimulation is an alternative treatment that requires the surgeon to plant electrodes into a particular segment of the brain called the thalamus. The electrodes should be linked to a generator planted in the skull or chest and send pulses to the brain. It is effective in reducing seizures.
Ketogenic diets that have high fats and low carbohydrates also contribute to containing epileptic episodes. Your doctor will examine your general condition and determine if it’s the best alternative for you.
Vagus nerve stimulation entails the use of a vagus nerve stimulator underneath the skin in the chest area. The gadget is then connected to the vagus nerve located in the neck. It keeps sending electrical energy to the brain to keep electrical energy in the brain seamless, reducing seizures.
Taking notes for your doctor
You may consider keeping a detailed seizure calendar every time an epileptic episode occurs. Write down how it happened and how long it lasted. If you have experienced disturbing symptoms such as sleep deprivation, forgetfulness, increases stress, and other things that might trigger seizures, include them. Ask your closest friends and family to observe your seizures and record information such as time elapsed during seizures in your schedule calendar.
When to see a doctor
If you have epilepsy and you been on medication or treatment, it’s essential to know when to see a doctor. Generally, you will see your doctor regularly for appointments and check-ups. However, you notice new symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. They include:
- Seizures that last more than five minutes
- Increasing seizure frequency
- Eyesight problems such as double vision, blurred vision, rolling eye movements and spots before the eyes
- Allergic reactions such as difficulty breathing
- Anxiety, confusion, and restlessness
- Muscle, bone or joint pains
You might want to check with the doctor immediately if you are pregnant or have chronic conditions like diabetes. If you experience a seizure episode for the first time, seek medical advice.