Epileptic Seizures & Non-Epileptic Seizures
Seizures are unexpected and unmanaged electrical disturbances in the brain that cause behavioral changes, unconsciousness, altered feelings, and involuntary movements. A seizure can happen to anyone, irrespective of their age or gender. Many different types of seizures show diverse symptoms. Normally, a seizure lasts for a few seconds to two minutes. However, if a seizure lasts for more than five minutes, it’s considered to be a medical emergency. If a person is prone to unprovoked & recurring seizures, the condition is known as epilepsy.
Let’s find out more about epileptic seizures, along with its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.
What Is An Epileptic Seizure?
An epileptic seizure is a neurological disorder, in which there are uncontrolled and sudden electrical disturbances in the brain. This can cause various symptomatic responses like unconsciousness, strange behavior, involuntary body movements, and changing sensations. A person is said to be suffering from epileptic seizures if he/she experiences repeated seizures frequently. As these seizures are unprovoked, they are most commonly caused by poor sleep, stress, or underlying brain disorders.
What Causes Epileptic Seizures?
In medical science, epilepsy is known to have no confirmed cause. However, various factors are known to contribute to the occurrence of epileptic seizures. Here are some of the most probable causes of epileptic seizures.
- Hereditary Factors – In many cases, epileptic seizures are known to be inherited within the family tree. Some genes have been medically linked to make a person sensitive to certain surrounding conditions. This genetic sensitivity is what acts as a triggering agent of seizures.
- Head Trauma – Head trauma caused due to an accident or a head injury can also cause these types of seizures.
- Brain Disorders – Various brain disorders like stroke, tumors, abnormalities, and dementia are also known to cause epilepsy seizures. People beyond the late 30s are vulnerable to strokes, which further lead to these seizures.
- Infectious Diseases – Various infectious diseases like AIDS, meningitis, tuberculosis, and neurocysticercosis are also known to cause epilepsy seizures.
- Pregnancy Situations – During pregnancy, unborn children are more vulnerable to brain damage due to accidents, infections, malnutrition, and oxygen deficiency, etc. Any kind of damage to the brain can often cause or trigger epileptic seizures.
- Developmental Conditions – Various developmental conditions like autism and neurofibromatosis are also known to trigger epilepsy.
- Other General Triggers – Many other general factors might trigger epileptic seizures in people. These include poor sleep, sickness, anxiety, vivid lighting, caffeine, improper eating habits, caffeinated beverages, alcoholic drinks, medicines, and drugs.
Symptoms Of Epileptic Seizures
The symptoms of epileptic seizures can be divided into various sub-types.
- Simple Partial Seizures – During these, a person doesn’t become unconscious and the symptoms include sensory changes, giddiness, and itchy/jerky arms & legs.
- Complex Partial Seizures – During these, a person becomes conscious of symptoms like spot staring, zero responsiveness, and rhythmic movements.
- Absence Seizures – Also called petit mal seizures, these can often cause loss of consciousness, intent looking, and recurring movements like lip-smacking.
- Tonic Seizures – Tonic seizures are often known to cause stiffness in the body muscles, like legs, arms, etc.
- Atonic Seizures – In atonic seizures, a person might lose control over his body muscles, leading him/her to collapse all of a sudden.
- Clonic Seizures – These are known to cause repetitive movement of various body muscles, like jerking movement of arms and legs.
- Myoclonic Seizures –These lead to jerky movements in the arms and legs.
- Tonic-Clonic Seizures (Grand Mal Seizures) – In these, a person might experience body rigidness, trembling, uncontrollable bladder, tongue bites, and unconsciousness.
Diagnosis Of Epileptic Seizure
To diagnose epileptic seizures, the doctor may conduct a series of tests and ask about medical history and symptoms. Here are some of the tests performed to check and confirm epilepsy.
- Blood Tests – Blood tests are performed to check the blood count, infections, functioning of kidneys & liver, and blood sugar levels.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) – An EEG test helps in checking the functioning of the brain, while also looking for any irregularities.
- Computerized Tomography (CT scan) helps in checking the existence of irregularities or disorders of the brain.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI scan) helps in scanning the brain thoroughly for irregularities, tumors, and other issues.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET scan) and Single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) – In these tests, the doctor injects a low dosage of radioactive material into a vein to check brain disorders.
Treatment Of Epileptic Seizures
The treatment options for epileptic seizures depend upon the intensity of the symptoms and the response to therapeutic treatments. Here are some of the common treatment options for epilepsy.
- Anti-epileptic Drugs – These might be prescribed by the doctor to prevent and stop seizures from happening in the future.
- Brain Surgery – Brain surgery might be required to remove or change the brain area known to cause seizures.
- Ketogenic Diet – A high fat and low carbohydrate diet is known to help in the prevention and management of epilepsy.
- Vagus Nerve Stimulator – This is an electronic nerve stimulator device, which is installed under the chest skin to prevent seizures.
Non-Epileptic Seizures (NES)
Non-epileptic seizures are the ones that don’t involve abnormal electric discharges in the brain. These types of seizures are rather strong, which causes a person to lose consciousness and body control. At present, there are no established causes of non-epileptic seizures, however, these are said to be physical responses to mental anxiety. These seizures are also commonly experienced by people of all ages i.e. young and old.
Symptoms Of Non-Epileptic Seizures
The non-epileptic seizure warning signs are quite similar to that of epileptic seizures. Here are some of the commonly experienced non-epileptic seizure symptoms.
- Cries & Screams
- Body Rigidness
- Recurring Physical Movements Like Jerking & Trembling
- Collapsing Down
- Confusion After Regaining Consciousness
- Uncontrollable Bladder
- Tongue Bites
- Unusual Sensations In Body
- Spot Staring
- Emotional Mood Swings
- Changes In Sensory Functioning
What Causes Non-Epileptic Seizures?
Here are some of the most probable causes of non-epileptic seizures.
- An underlying heart disorder that leads to loss of consciousness.
- Various metabolism-related diseases like Diabetes.
- Psychological Anxiety or Breakdowns
- Overwhelming or Painful Emotions
- Physical or Mental Harassment
- Physical or Psychological Abuse
- Fatal Accident or Trauma
Diagnosis Of Non-Epileptic Seizures
The diagnosis of non-epileptic seizures requires the same tests as epileptic seizures.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) – This helps in ruling out epilepsy by checking the abnormalities in the electrical brain signals. If a person is suffering from NES, he/she will not show any irregularities in the electrical brain signals.
- MRI & CT Scan – Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Computerized Tomography helps in checking for any brain irregularities or disorders for epilepsy. However, these don’t prove beneficial in diagnosing NES.
- Blood Tests – Blood tests are performed to check for underlying health problems like diabetes.
Treatment Of Non-Epileptic Seizures
The treatment of non-epileptic seizures includes Psychotherapy. Psychotherapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps in controlling and managing NES by exploring the patient’s thought and feeling patterns. NES can’t be cured with anti-seizure medicines but instead anti-depression and anti-anxiety drugs may be prescribed.
The Bottom Line!
Epileptic and Non-Epileptic seizures can happen to anyone. However, you can easily follow precautionary measures to prevent these from happening. Also, a person suffering from both these conditions can be cured with proper care and treatment. If you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms, get in touch with a medical professional today.