Overview of epilepsy
Have you ever lost control over your muscles? Or your body tends to do undesired movements?
If so, then most probably you are facing epilepsy. Epilepsy is most known for its frequent seizures symptoms. It defined as a neurological disorder (related to the central nervous system). In which brain activity becomes abnormal, showing seizures or periods of surprising behavior, sensations, and ends with a loss of consciousness in severe cases.
Is Epilepsy Considered a Treatable Disorder?
Unfortunately, epilepsy is a chronic disorder. Thus, if you got diagnosed as an epilepsy patient you will face these seizures frequently. Treatments can only reduce the number of seizures you face, or they can limit their symptoms. Nowadays, researchers are working on a permanent treatment for epilepsy. Whether through manipulating the chemical receptors inside the human body to accept the neurotransmitter (chemical signals). Or, through using the embryonic stem cells, to heal the degenerative parts within the brain.
Why Do Seizures Occur?
Seizures caused by disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain. This means it can get provoked by hypoglycemia, alcohol withdrawal, or occur spontaneously. Unfortunately, anyone might develop this brain disorder. It affects all males and females of all races and ages.
What Are the Symptoms of Epilepsy?
Epilepsy symptoms are numerous. Some people may just stare without expression for a couple of seconds, whereas others repeatedly twitch their arms or legs. Having one seizure is not a sure sign that you have got epilepsy. It usually diagnosed after having at least 2 seizures.
Many patients who get an isolated first seizure never suffer another seizure; however, after a second unprovoked seizure, there is a high risk of having recurrent seizures.
Seizures affect any action your brain coordinates. Seizure signs and symptoms could include:
- Temporary confusion.
- A staring spell.
- Uncontrolled jerking movements of the arms and legs.
- Loss of consciousness or awareness.
- Psychic symptoms like people with anxiety or fear.
Symptoms vary according to the type of seizure. In most cases, an individual suffers from only one type of seizures; which means that they will have the same symptoms each time.
When Can Seizures Be a Sign of Epilepsy?
In March 2019, The Medical Clinics of North America revealed that individuals with two or more unprovoked seizures, separated by at least 24 hours diagnosed as having epilepsy. There are about 65 million patients having epilepsy worldwide.
What Is the Fate of Epilepsy Patient?
Medications and surgery can manage seizures in most individuals suffering from epilepsy and reduce its effects. In some people, medication is crucial for their treatment all their lives. Others, don’t have to spend their life using medications. Because eventually, the seizures go away. For some kids, the seizures condition may progress as they increase in age.
What are the Classes of Seizures?
Doctors typically classify seizures as either focal seizures or generalized seizures. You can know which type you have after examining the abnormal brain activity and seeing how it’s like.
What Are Focal Seizures?
When seizures seem to result from abnormal activity in only one space of your brain, they are referred to as focal (partial) seizures. These seizures make up 2 categories:
- The simple seizure where a patient loses consciousness. it got manifested by emotional changes and involuntary movements. There are also some sensory symptoms as dizziness and flashing lights.
- The complex seizure where there is a loss of consciousness. The patient stares and doesn’t respond for some time.
Other brain disorders have the same symptoms as epilepsy. These disorders require tests and examination to differentiate them from epilepsy. They include narcolepsy (a case where the patient sleeps suddenly), and migraine (a headache that affects one half of the brain).
What Are Generalized Seizures?
They affect both sides of the brain. They include almost all areas of the brain.
Unknown onset seizures, when the beginning of a seizure is not known, or when not witnessed or seen by anyone. For example, during night or people living alone. Later, an unknown onset seizure may get diagnosed as a focal or generalized seizure.
What Are the Types of Seizures?
- Absence Seizures: it also known as petit mal seizures. Usually, absence seizures occur in kids. They characterized by staring or body movements like eye blinking or lip-smacking. These seizures might occur in clusters and cause a short loss of consciousness.
- Tonic Seizures: these seizures make muscles stiff or tense. They target back and leg muscles and sometimes may cause falling to the ground.
- Atonic seizures: They are famous as drop seizures. A patient can’t control his muscles and eventually, he will collapse.
- Clonic seizures: They get manifested by jerky muscle movements in the back, face, and arms.
- Myoclonic seizures: They are sudden quick jerking movements that affect the arms and legs.
- Tonic-clonic seizures: They call it as grand mal seizures. They are the most severe type of epileptic seizures. Because they can lead to fainting, vigorous body shaking, urine incontinence, and biting the tongue.
On 2019, An Epilepsy Research Journal concluded that epilepsy with generalized tonic-clonic seizures alone in childhood is a type of epilepsy. However, it may be considered as a well-defined epileptic syndrome.
When Shall I See the Doctor?
You must see a doctor if you experienced any of the following symptoms:
- The seizure lasts quite 5 minutes.
- Breathing or consciousness does not come back once the seizure stops.
- A second seizure happened shortly after the first one.
- You have a high fever.
- You’re diabetic.
- You’re pregnant.
- if you injured yourself during the seizure.
- If you had a seizure for the first time, seek medical recommendation.
What Are the Causes of Epilepsy?
Frankly, there is no obvious cause of epilepsy. Half of the patients are suffering from unknown onset-epilepsy. For the other half, the disease may be related to different factors including:
- Genetic Factors: Epilepsy with the unknown cause is usually due to genetic form. Researchers have already identified specific genes that cause epilepsy. However, for most people, genes can make us so sensitive to environmental conditions. Eventually, it will lead to seizures.
Recently, there has been a rapid increase in the knowledge of epilepsy genetics. Nowadays, it is estimated that they include over 30% of all epilepsy syndromes. In the Neuroscience Letters Journal in 2018, scientists revealed the gene mutations that lead to that in a third of the patients.
- Strokes and Tumors that Damage the Brain: They are a leading cause of epilepsy especially in people older than 35 years.
- Head trauma.
- Infectious diseases.
- Autism: it sometimes causes seizures.
What Are the Most Common Cause of Epilepsy?
A) In newborns:
- Brain malformations.
- Lack of oxygen during birth.
- Low levels of blood sugar, calcium or magnesium.
- Inborn errors of metabolism.
- Intracranial hemorrhage.
- Maternal drug use.
B) In Infants and Children:
- Fever Febrile seizures result from sensitivity to feverin the developing brain. On 2018, Neurology, Psychiatry and Brain Research found that the Febrile seizures are the most common type of seizures in childhood. They are seen in 2–6% of children before the age of 5 years, but in some populations, it increases to 15%. those seizures are the first manifestations of epilepsy. About 13% of epileptic patients have a history of febrile seizures, and 30% have had recurrent febrile seizures.Advertisement
- Brain tumor.
C) In Children and Adults:
- Congenital Syndromes.
- Genetic factors.
- severe brain disease.
- Head trauma.
D) In Seniors:
- Alzheimer’s disease.
What Are the Risk Factors of Epilepsy?
Certain factors could increase the risk of epilepsy:
- Age: Epilepsy usually occurs in children and older people however it can happen at any age due to different causes.
- Dementia: which is a brain disease that affects memory, personality, and behavior.
- Family History: if your father or mother had epilepsy then you are at great risk of developing it.
- Head Injuries: anyone is exposed to that kind of risk. We should avoid the causes by wearing helmets while riding or a seat belt while driving.
- Infections: meningitis that affects the meninges of the brain and spinal cord by inflammation can lead to a higher risk of epilepsy.
- Any disease that causes damage to the brain such as stroke, tumors, or vascular diseases may cause epilepsy.
- fevers sometimes cause seizures which is the first risk factor of epilepsy.
What Are the Complications of Epilepsy?
Seizures can sometimes lead to serious circumstances that may harm the patient himself and the people around him. Complications are like:
- Seizures may lead to falling. This could break a bone or injure your body.
- Seizures that happen during swimming can lead to drowning. Epileptic patients are at a higher risk of drowning than normal people. Because they might have a seizure while they are in the water.
- Seizures may occur while driving, which is a very dangerous situation. Also, it can cause loss of control or consciousness. Thus, there must be restrictions that prevent those patients from having a driving license for the greater good.
- Seizures that happen to a pregnant woman can harm both the mother and the baby. Additionally, the medications that the epileptic mother take may harm the baby. Unfortunately, congenital defects are an option. So, women must consider this with their doctors. They must adjust their medications to have healthy babies.
- Most patients who have epilepsy suffer the side effects of their medications. They usually have psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, suicidal issues, or any kind of emotional problems. A study in China in 2019 was published in Epilepsy and Behavior Journal revealed that 36 out of 250 epileptic patients committed suicide. This means that the suicidal tendency is common among adult patients with epilepsy. Therefore, while maintaining the treatment of epilepsy, doctors should direct more attention to their social support and mental state to prevent suicide.
- Rarely, seizures can lead to sudden death. This condition is unexpected. Its cause is still unknown. People having frequent tonic-clonic seizures are at higher risk of dying. Some patients have epileptic seizures that are not controlled by medications. These patients can also die. However, only one percent of epileptic patients suffer from this unexpected death.
What Is Status Epilepticus?
This is a rare case. It only happens when seizures last for more than five minutes. Or, it occurs frequently and causes loss of awareness. This condition is very dangerous. it may cause serious brain damage and death.
Is There a Relation Between Epilepsy and Behavior?
Epilepsy & Behavior Journal released a study in April 2017 which reveals that: Depression is one of the most frequent psychiatric complications in patients with epilepsy. The prevalence of depression reported more frequently in temporal lobe epilepsy and estimated at 35%.
Patients with epilepsy who are not responding to treatment and having depression reported the worst quality of life. Because depression disrupts daily functioning. Also, it affects health and treatment. So, doctors must consider depression in their treatment in addition to anti-epileptic drugs.
What Is the Meaning of Epilepsy Syndromes?
When a patient has a group of features happening together, it is called a syndrome. These features are symptoms that a patient has or signs that doctors notice while examining him.
They may include:
- The type of seizures.
- Age at which the seizures begin.
- Causes of the seizures.
- Whether the seizures got inherited.
- Which part of the brain involved.
- Factors that cause seizures.
- The frequency and severity of the seizures.
- The duration of the seizure.
- Genetic information.
- Other disorders in addition to seizures.
- If the patient is recovering or getting worse.
Of course, an epilepsy syndrome not defined by all these features; however, it’s important that we diagnose a patient as having a certain syndrome. It’s very helpful in providing information for the treatment.
What Are the Types of Epilepsy Syndromes?
There are numerous types of epilepsy syndromes such as:
A) Angelman syndrome (AS):
It’s a developmental brain disorder. It found in babies between 6 and 12 months. Usually, it happens due to a genetic cause. Epilepsy found in 80% of the patients having AS. Absence and myoclonic seizures are very common in AS. Status epilepticus may also be available. Surprisingly, the seizures in AS are hard to control using normal medications.
Features seen in babies:
- Developmental delay.
- Severe problems in movement.
- some children have difficulty in speaking.
- there is more motor activity than usual such as hand waving.
B) Childhood Absence Epilepsy (CAE):
It’s a type of epilepsy characterized by absence seizures. Usually, CAE affects young children between 3 to 11 years. The seizures often happen during exercise and last for about 10 seconds. These children develop normally; however, some of them have learning difficulties. Obviously, the patient has a staring spell and doesn’t respond to the surrounding stimuli. Mostly, the cause of CAE is genetic.
C) Doose Syndrome:
It is a type of epilepsy known as myoclonic-atonic seizures. This syndrome named after doctor Herman Doose from Germany. He was the first to describe it in 1970. It is an uncommon type of epilepsy that happens in early childhood. It only affects 2 out of 100 of all childhood-onset epilepsies. Unfortunately, the genetics of the disease is still unknown.
These are the signs that doctors notice on the patients:
- generalized tonic-clonic seizures in the first 2 years of life.
- abnormal electroencephalogram.
- early episodes status epilepticus.
- seizures that happen when falling asleep.
- myoclonic seizures after age 4.
D) Autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy (ADNFLE):
It’s a type of epilepsy syndromes. Usually, it happens by the age of 20 in 85% of the cases. It is an inherited disease. Autosomal dominant inheritance means that an abnormal gene from one parent can transfer to a child. These seizures usually happen during sleep.
Luckily, this syndrome well controlled by medications. Seizures decrease in number and severity with age. The development of patients is normal until the first seizure occurs. However, there are rarely some thinking and memory problems. But generally, they are normal people.
In conclusion, epilepsy is a chronic disorder that might be diagnosed from a young age. Early diagnosis can help in better treatment. Thus, my advice to you is to go for examinations if you ever felt any of these symptoms. Because medications will definitely help.
Check our coming articles about epilepsy. We will cover the whole topic in interesting questions and answers forms on our blog https://fitnesshealthforever.com/