Epilepsy is a group of related disorders characterized by a tendency for recurrent seizures. There are different types of epilepsy and seizures. Epilepsy drugs are prescribed to control seizures, and rarely surgery is necessary if medications are ineffective. Seizures, abnormal movements or behavior due to unusual electrical activity in the brain, are a symptom of epilepsy. But not all people who appear to have seizures have epilepsy, a group of related disorders characterized by a tendency for recurrent seizures. Anyone can develop epilepsy. Epilepsy affects both males and females of all races, ethnic backgrounds and ages. Seizure symptoms can vary widely. Some people with epilepsy simply stare blankly for a few seconds during a seizure, while others repeatedly twitch their arms or legs.
• Focal seizures without loss of consciousness. Once called simple partial seizures, these seizures don’t cause a loss of consciousness. They may alter emotions or change the way things look, smell, feel, taste or sound. They may also result in involuntary jerking of a body part, such as an arm or leg, and spontaneous sensory symptoms such as tingling, dizziness and flashing lights.
• Focal seizures with impaired awareness. Once called complex partial seizures, these seizures involve a change or loss of consciousness or awareness. During a complex partial seizure, you may stare into space and not respond normally to your environment or perform repetitive movements, such as hand rubbing, chewing, swallowing or walking in circles.
Symptoms for Epilepsy
Symptoms of partial or focal seizures may involve only parts of the body such as rhythmic movements or jerking of a hand, strange sensations, small repetitive movements such as picking at clothes or lip smacking, and a dazed or confused appearance. Symptoms of absence or petit mal seizures are brief and may include impaired consciousness, blank sharing. Because epilepsy is caused by abnormal activity in the brain, seizures can affect any process your brain coordinates. Seizure signs and symptoms may include:
Absence seizures produce symptoms of disconnection from surrounding stimuli; the patient appears “absent from their body” and stares off vacantly for a few seconds and then appears normal and has no memory of the incident.
• Temporary confusion
• High fever
• A staring spell
• Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
• High trauma
• Loss of consciousness or awareness
• Alcohol withdrawal
• Psychic symptoms such as fear, anxiety.
• Alterations to sense of taste, smell, sight, hearing, or touch
• Tingling and twitching of limbs
• Biting of the tongue
• Loss of consciousness
Causes of Epilepsy
Epilepsy has no identifiable cause in about half the people with the condition. In the other half, the condition may be traced to various factors, including:
• 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. In these cases, it’s likely that there’s a genetic influence.
Researchers have linked some types of epilepsy to specific genes, but for most people, genes are only part of the cause of epilepsy. Certain genes may make a person more sensitive to environmental conditions that trigger seizures.
• Head trauma. Head trauma as a result of a car accident or other traumatic injury can cause epilepsy. traumatic brain injury
• Brain conditions. Brain conditions that cause damage to the brain, such as brain tumors or strokes, can cause epilepsy. Stroke is a leading cause of epilepsy in adults older than age 35.
• Infectious diseases. Infectious diseases, such as meningitis, AIDS and viral encephalitis, can cause epilepsy.
• 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. This brain damage can result in epilepsy or cerebral palsy.
• Developmental disorders. Epilepsy can sometimes be associated with developmental disorders, such as autism and neurofibromatosis
• Scarring on the brain after a brain injury (post-traumatic epilepsy)
• Serious illness or very high fever
• Stroke, which is a leading cause of epilepsy in people over age 35
• Maternal drug use, prenatal injury, brain malformation, or lack of oxygen at birth
• Infectious diseases such as AIDS and meningitis
• Genetic or developmental disorders or neurological diseases
To diagnose your condition, your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history. Your doctor may order several tests to diagnose epilepsy and determine the cause of seizures. Your evaluation may include:
• A neurological exam. Your doctor may test your behavior, motor abilities, mental function and other areas to diagnose your condition and determine the type of epilepsy you may have.
• Blood tests. Your doctor may take a blood sample to check for signs of infections, genetic conditions or other conditions that may be associated with seizures.
• Electroencephalogram (EEG). This is the most common test used to diagnose epilepsy. In this test, electrodes are attached to your scalp with a paste-like substance or cap. The electrodes record the electrical activity of your brain.
• Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan uses X-rays to obtain cross-sectional images of your brain. CT scans can reveal abnormalities in your brain that might be causing your seizures, such as tumors, bleeding and cysts.
Doctors generally begin by treating epilepsy with medication. If medications don’t treat the condition, doctors may propose surgery or another type of treatment.
Most people with epilepsy can become seizure-free by taking one anti-seizure medication, which is also called anti-epileptic medication. Others may be able to decrease the frequency and intensity of their seizures by taking a combination of medications.
When medications fail to provide adequate control over seizures, surgery may be an option. With epilepsy surgery, a surgeon removes the area of your brain that’s causing seizures.
Vagus nerve stimulation
In vagus nerve stimulation, doctors implant a device called a vagus nerve stimulator underneath the skin of your chest, similar to a heart pacemaker.
Anti-epileptic (anticonvulsant, antiseizure) drugs
These medications can reduce the number of seizures you have. In some people, they eliminate seizures. To be effective, the medication must be taken exactly as prescribed.
Vagus nerve stimulator
This device is surgically placed under the skin on the chest and electrically stimulates the nerve that runs through your neck. This can help prevent seizures.