Worldwide, 65 million people have epilepsy. That includes about 3 million people in the United States, where 150,000 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed each year.
More than 500 genes may be associated with epilepsy in some way.
One-third of people with epilepsy have uncontrollable seizures because they have not received any treatment that works.
Epilepsy is more common among older people. But in the developing countries, epilepsy is more common in older children and young adults.
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a group of chronic brain disorders that causes recurrent seizures. Epilepsy is characterized by epileptic seizures/seizure.
What is seizure?
Seizure occurs when there is an unusual electrical activity happened in the brain. Seizures may be virtually unnoticed. Or, in serious cases, they can cause a change or loss of consciousness and spasms in involuntary muscles which are called convulsions.
Seizures usually occur suddenly and vary in duration and severity. Seizure can be a one-time event, or you may have seizures repeatedly.
The main symptom of epilepsy is repeated seizures. There is no permanent cure for epilepsy. Only symptoms of epilepsy or seizures are preventable.
What is the difference between seizures and epilepsy?
Seizure is an indication of epilepsy. All patients with epilepsy have seizures, but not all people have epilepsy when seizures occur. An episode of a seizure does not indicate that the person is suffering from epilepsy.
Seizures can also be triggered by the synchronized activity of neurons in the brain occurring in different conditions, such as high fever, lack of supply of oxygen to the brain and hypoglycemia. Epilepsy is a condition that makes a person susceptible to the seizures.
Types of seizures:
There are two main types of seizures. Generalized and Focal or partial.
1. Generalized seizures can affect the whole brain.
2. Focal, or partial seizures, affect only one part of the brain.
Mild seizure may be difficult to recognize. It can last a few seconds, during which you are lacking in awareness.
Strong seizures can cause cramps and uncontrolled muscle twitches.It can last up to a few seconds to several minutes. During a strong seizure, some people become confused or lose consciousness. After this, you cannot have any memory of it.
While treating a patient with epileptic seizures a doctor might make following three diagnoses:
1. Idiopathic – this means there is no obvious reason
2. Cryptogenic – This means that the doctor believes that there is most probably a cause, but cannot despise it.
3. Symptomatic – This means that the doctor knows what the reason is.
What are the symptoms of epilepsy?
The main symptom of epilepsy is seizures. The symptoms vary from person to person and according to the type of seizure.
Focal (Partial) seizure:
A simple partial seizure doesn’t involve loss of consciousness. The symptoms include:
★ Changes for the taste, smell, sight, hearing, or feeling of touch
★ Tingling and twitching of limbs
Complex partial seizures involve loss of consciousness or awareness. Symptoms include:
★ Staring blankly
★ Performing repetitive movements
Generalized seizures involve the whole brain. These are six types:
Absence seizures, called “Petit Mal Seizures “, are a blank stare. This type of seizure can also be the reason for repeating movements such as lip smacking or blinking. Generally, there is a short loss of awareness.
Tonic seizures can cause muscle stiffness.
Atonic seizures decrease muscle control and so you may fall down suddenly.
Clonic seizures are caused by the movements of repeated, jerky muscles of the face, neck, and arms.
Myoclonic seizures cause faster movement of hands and feet.
Tonic-clonic seizures are called “grand mal seizures”. Symptoms include:
★ Stiffening of the body
★ Loss of bladder or bowel control
★ Biting of the tongue
★ Loss of consciousness
After the seizure, you cannot remember having one, or you may feel a little sick for a few hours.
What triggers an epileptic seizure?
Some people are able to identify things or situations that can trigger seizures
The most commonly reported triggers are:
★ Lack of sleep
★ Illness or fever
★ Tension or stress
★ Bright Lights, Flashing Lights, or Patterns
★ Caffeine, Alcohol, Medicines, or Drugs
★ Skipping meals, eating more, or specific food ingredients
Identifying triggers is not always easy. A single event does not always mean that there is a trigger, it is often a combination of factors that triggers seizure.
A good way to find your triggers is to keep the seizure journal or dairy. After each seizure, note the following:
★ Date and time
★ What activity you were involved in
★ What was happening around you
★ Unusual sights, smells, or sounds
★ Unusual stressors
★What you were eating or how long it had been since you’d eaten
★ Your level of fatigue and how well you slept the night before
You can also use your seizure journal to determine if your medicines are working or not. Note how you felt before and after the seizure and about any side effects.
When you meet the doctor, bring the journal with you. This can be useful in adjusting your medications or exploring other treatments.
What causes epilepsy?
For 6 out of 10 epilepsy, the cause cannot be determined. Many things can cause seizures.
Top 11 possible causes include:
1. Traumatic brain injury
2. Scarring on the brain after a brain injury (post-traumatic epilepsy)
3. Serious illness or very high fever
4. Stroke, which is a leading cause of epilepsy in people over age 35
5. Other vascular diseases
6. Lack of oxygen to the brain
7. Brain tumor or cyst
8. Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
9. maternal drug use, prenatal injury, brain malformation, or lack of oxygen at birth
10. Infectious diseases such as AIDS and meningitis
11. Genetic or developmental disorders or neurological diseases
Genetics can also make some people susceptible to seizures from environmental triggers.
Epilepsy can grow at any age. Diagnosis usually occurs in early childhood or occurs after the age of 60.
Is epilepsy hereditary?
Even though epilepsy is sometimes run in the family, the risk of inheriting this condition is very low. Most parents with epilepsy do not have children with epilepsy
In the general population, there is 1 percent chance of developing epilepsy before the age of 20 years. If you have a parent whose epilepsy is related to genetics, it increases your risk by 2 to 5 percent.
If your parents have epilepsy due to any other reason, such as stroke or brain injury, this does not affect the chances of developing epilepsy.
Epilepsy does not affect your ability to have children. But some epilepsy medicines can affect your unborn baby. Do not stop taking your medicines, but do talk to your doctor before becoming pregnant or as soon as you know you are pregnant.
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