In this Health Article:
- What Causes Epilepsy?
- What Are the Types of Epilepsy?
- What Are the Symptoms of Epilepsy?
- What Are the Diagnosis & Tests for Epilepsy?
- What Are the Treatments Available for Epilepsy?
- How Do You Cope Up with Epilepsy?
- What Are the Ways to Prevent Epilepsy?
- Medications for Epilepsy Available at InternationalDrugMart.com
- Self Care
Introduction:Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder. The abnormal signaling of the nerve cells or neurons of the brain causes seizures resulting in epilepsy. This affects the normal neuronal activity causing strange and uncontrolled movement and loss of consciousness in some people. A single seizure is not considered epilepsy and also not all seizures are termed as epilepsy.
What Causes Epilepsy?There is no single defined cause for epilepsy. It could be linked to many conditions. Anything that disturbs the normal activity of the brain signals could trigger epilepsy. For instance, a head or a brain injury resulting from an accident could lead to epilepsy. Other factors like infection or illness that affected the developing brain of the fetus during pregnancy, lack of oxygen to an infant’s brain during childbirth, meningitis, encephalitis, or other brain infections, brain tumors strokes can trigger epilepsy. Epilepsy may develop because of the imbalance of neurotransmitters which help neurons in the brain to transmit electrical impulses. Heredity could also cause epilepsy. Exposure to lead, carbon monoxide and certain chemicals in the environment are at your workplace might lead to epilepsy. Lack of sleep, stress or hormonal changes, withdrawal from certain antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs also contribute to epilepsy.
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What Are the Types of Epilepsy?Idiopathic Generalized Epilepsy: Idiopathic generalized epilepsy normally appears during childhood or adolescence. A MRI scan of this condition indicates a normal brain structures, also no abnormalities of the nervous system is found other than seizures. Different types of seizures that affect people with idiopathic generalized epilepsy include Myoclonic seizures (sudden and very short duration jerking of the extremities), absence seizures (staring spells) and generalized tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal seizures). Idiopathic generalized epilepsy tends to appear during childhood or adolescence, although it may not be diagnosed until adulthood. Family history often plays a major role in developing idiopathic generalized epilepsy. Medications are used to treat this type of epilepsy.
Idiopathic Partial Epilepsy: Also known as benign focal epilepsy of childhood (BFEC), it affects children between the age 5 and 8 who generally have a family history of epilepsy. This is considered as one of the mildest types of epilepsy which is always outgrown by puberty. Symptoms of idiopathic partial epilepsy include seizures during sleep and simple partial motor seizures and secondarily generalized (grand mal) seizures. EEG of BEFC patient shows patterns in brain wave.
Symptomatic Generalized Epilepsy: A variety of causes attribute to symptomatic generalized epilepsy. Widespread brain damage, injury during birth, specific inherited brain diseases such as adrenoleukodystrophy (ADL), brain infections like meningitis and encephalitis can also cause symptomatic generalized epilepsy. If the cause of symptomatic generalized epilepsy is unidentified, the condition is referred to as cryptogenic epilepsy. Amongst the several subtypes of cryptogenic epilepsy, Lenoxx-Gastaut syndrome is considered to be more common. Patients with idiopathic partial epilepsy have multiple types of seizures like generalized tonic-clonic, tonic, myoclonic, tonic, atonic and absence seizure which can be difficult to control.
Symptomatic Partial Epilepsy: This is the most common type of epilepsy that begins in adulthood, though it occurs frequently in children. Symptomatic partial epilepsy is usually treated with surgery that is aimed to remove the abnormal brain area without compromising the function of the rest of the brain. Such a surgery is found to be successful in large number of patients who failed multiple anticonvulsant medications and who have identifiable lesions. Strokes, tumors, trauma, congenital brain abnormality, scarring or sclerosis of brain tissue, cysts or infections are certain causes for symptomatic partial epilepsy.
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What Are the Symptoms of Epilepsy?Seizures can affect any process of your brain resulting in temporary confusion, complete loss of consciousness, a staring spell, or uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs. Symptoms vary depending on the type of the seizure. However, recurring episodes will have very similar symptoms. Simple partial seizures alter emotions or change the way things look, smell, feel, taste or sound. A person with complex partial seizure may lose awareness for a while. Also, they are used to perform non-purposeful movements like hand rubbing, lip smacking, arm positioning, vocalization or swallowing. Other symptoms of epilepsy might include staring, subtle body movement, and sudden collapse or fall down, loss of bladder control, body stiffening and shaking.
What Are the Diagnosis & Tests for Epilepsy?If you experience any symptoms of seizures, consult the doctor immediately. There is no common test to diagnose epilepsy since the intensity of seizures varies from person to person. Your doctor might initially ask you certain questions pertaining to your family history of epilepsy. He/She might also perform neurological exam that tests your reflexes, muscle tone, muscle strength, sensory function, gait, posture, coordination and balance. Also take some one with you as a witness of your symptoms, since some people tend to forget what happened during their seizures. The doctor might prescribe you to a couple or more tests including blood test to check for infections, anemia, diabetes or lead poisoning that could trigger seizures. Other tests suggested might include
- Electroencephalogram (EEG) – Whereby electrodes are fixed to your scalp to read the brain patterns. Generally people with seizures have changes in their normal brain pattern. Avoid metallic hair spray and refrain from caffeine at least six hours before the test. In rare cases, doctor may also recommend video-EEG monitoring which demands you to stay at the lab for several days. In video-EEG, you are videotaped continuously. This enables doctors to compare your behavior every second and identify where the seizures originate.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – An MRI machine uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of your brain. They are used to expose brain abnormalities that could be causing your seizures. Dental fillings and braces may distort the images, so be sure to tell the technician about them before the test begins. Sometimes, a special MRI called functional MRI (FMRI) is performed to record the areas of your brain when you perform certain tasks. An FMRI scan enables doctor to determine whether epilepsy surgery is required for you.
- CT scan – A CT (computerized tomography) scan is generally prescribed to study the abnormalities in your brain structure including tumor, cysts, strokes or tangled blood vessels. A CT scan obtains your brain images in different angles, which are then joined together to show cross-sectional images of your brain and skull.
- PET scan – In a PET (positron emission tomography), a radioactive material is injected to you that bind with the glucose in your brain. This enables doctor to visualize the active areas of the brain. After a quiet rest for say about 30 to 90 minutes you’ll undergo PET scan.
- SPECT – Single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) is used in people whose seizure onset is unclear on MRIs and EEGs. Generally SPECT is performed on people who undergo surgery for epilepsy. This test involves two scans – one during the seizure and other 24 hours later. Radioactive material is injected for both scans and the results are compared. The area of the brain with the greatest activity during the seizure can be superimposed onto the person's MRI, to show surgeons exactly what portion of the brain should be removed.
What Are the Treatments Available for Epilepsy?Epileptic seizures could be controlled through medications like anticonvulsant drugs. However, not everyone is prescribed the same drug. Treatment for epilepsy depends on several factors including the frequency and the severity of the seizures. The patient’s age, medical history is also taken into consideration before prescribing treatments for epilepsy. In general, medications can control seizures in about 70% of patients. However, if you don’t respond to medications, your doctor may suggest other treatment options like surgery or a ketogenic diet.
- Surgery – Surgery is performed if seizures are found in the temporal or front lobes of your brain, it is rare though. During the surgery, surgeon makes an incision in your scalp and removes the area of the brain that causes the seizures. In some people, surgery might result in complications that permanently alter your cognitive abilities.
- Vagus nerve stimulation – A device called a vagus nerve stimulator is inserted into your chest under the collarbone. Wires from the stimulator are wrapped around the vagus nerve in your neck. The vagus nerve connects your brain to your heart, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. The device turns on and off according to an adjustable program. It's not clear how brain stimulation via the vagus nerve inhibits seizures, but the device reduces seizures by about 20 percent to 40 percent on average. Most people still need to take anti-epileptic medication, but many can reduce their dosage.
- Ketogenic diet – Children with epilepsy are prescribed to follow a rigid diet that is high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates. The exact way in which a ketogenic diet works is unclear. However, it is said that practicing such a diet helps the body to produce ketones, which cause the body to use fat instead of glucose for energy. The diet is mostly used in children with difficult-to-control, generalized epilepsies like Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
How Do You Cope Up with Epilepsy?You are not alone. Epilepsies affect more than half of the American population, including children.
Following are certain tips that would help you or your kid cope up with epilepsy.
- Take plenty of rest.
- Follow a diet that is rich in proteins and fat.
- Talk to your friends and relatives about your problem.
- Manage with your confusion and mood disorders.
- Create an optimistic environment for your children.
- If you have memory problem, note down small things in a piece of paper.
What Are the Ways to Prevent Epilepsy?The exact cause of epilepsy is not known though a variety of factors like head injury is considered to trigger the condition. Following are certain tips that may help you prevent epilepsy.
- Wear helmets whenever you drive cycles are motorbikes.
- Wear seatbelts whenever you drive a car. Also wear seatbelt put your children.
- Take high level of prenatal care.
- Seek immediate treatment for high blood pressure or any other infections during pregnancy.
- Seek immediate medical attention for any cardiovascular disease or infections.
- Immediate treatment for condition such as encephalitis, high fever or a serious head injury will prevent you from developing epilepsy.
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Self CareHere are few simple, effective epilepsy self-care tips that can reduce epilepsy breakouts and control future breakouts.
- When a seizure occurs cushion the person’s head.
- Loosen any tight neckwear.
- Turn the person on his or her side.
- Do not hold the person down or restrain the person.
- Do not place anything in the mouth.
- Observe seizure characteristics-length, type of movements, direction of head or eye turning. These characteristics may help the doctor diagnose the type of seizure.