Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder and it is prevalent in people of all ages. It is sometimes also known as ‘seizure disorder’ since the people affected by it experience sudden and uninformed incidences of seizures.
It is a dangerous condition, often considered a disorder, and the individuals inflicted by it are protected under the Equality Act.
This Act is valid and enforceable even then when the person’s seizures are under control or he no longer considers himself ‘affected’.
Besides, Epilepsy, there are a number of other dangerous mental disorders that could disrupt a person’s daily life.
There could be a number of causes of Epilepsy and it could develop in people of different ages. Unfortunately, it is genetic, and nearly 30 to 40 per cent of the cases of Epilepsy are a result of genetics.
Know more and everything about this neurological condition here.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a chronic condition that is characterized by unprovoked and sudden seizures. The diagnosis is true if the person has at least two unprovoked seizures or one seizure with acute chances of others.
Such seizures must not have occurred due to any known or likely condition or reason like extremely low sugar or alcohol withdrawal. It is a spectrum condition that has several kinds of seizures and it could cause a number of other health issues also.
Though the main reason or what actually causes Epilepsy is still unknown. It could be caused due to brain damage or injury or simply because it runs in the family. People with Epilepsy often have other kinds of neurological disorders also.
Some symptoms and background details like family history, medical history, EEG (electroencephalogram) test reports, and others may be the same. In such a situation, their condition is defined as ‘epilepsy syndrome’.
The seizures could affect any part of the body but the symptoms are produced in the brain. The intensity of the seizure, the core area of the brain where it is produced, the way it has spread, and the area of the brain that has been affected by it, are some of the factors that help in determining the seizure’s quality and character.
Besides, these factors also determine how the person will react or will be affected. These seizures may have devastating effects on a person’s personal and professional life, safety, and daily activities like driving.
However, how the general public or people perceive it, is considered a bigger problem than the condition itself.
What is a Seizure?
A seizure is a result of an abrupt, sudden, and accelerated gush of electricity in the brain. This electrical activity happens due to the complex and complicated chemical changes in the nerve cells of the brain. In this condition, the brain cells could work either way; increase or decrease the working of the brain cells.
Usually, these brain cells are balanced and keep the brain’s activity balanced. During the seizure, this balance disrupts and as a result, the brain’s activity either increases or decreases. The chemical changes affect balance and lead to electrical activity in the brain.
A seizure is not a standalone disease but is a consequence or symptom of other brain disorders or diseases. The nature and characteristics of seizures could vary because it depends on the lobes of the brain that are affected by the seizure.
People having this condition often have depression also. This is because the general public do not know much about the condition and judge the inflicted person. When dealing with Epilepsy, it is better that you know about depression, its causes, and treatment also to keep it under control.
Types of Epilepsy - What are the Different Kinds of Epilepsy?
Generally, people are not aware of the various kinds of Epilepsy. Seizures differ from each other in a lot of ways and all of them may have different signs and symptoms. While focal and generalized types of Epilepsy are the main types, they have further kinds of seizures.
The most common kinds of Epilepsy or seizures are explained below.
Focal or partial seizures appear or happen in just a single area of the brain. These kinds of seizures come in the following two categories.
- Aware Focal Seizure - This kind of seizures was used to be identified as partial seizures. These seizures do not cause unconsciousness and the person remains conscious during it. However, they cause other symptoms like changing the way a person feels or experiences things like smell, taste, and sound. Besides, involuntary jerking of a body part like an arm or leg, flashing lights, and dizziness are also some of the symptoms that a person may experience when having a focal seizure.
- Impaired Awareness Focal Seizure - This kind of seizure was once known as a complex seizure. During this type of seizure, the person experiences faulty awareness or a change in awareness. Some people may lose consciousness also.
During it, the person may do things like staring in space, repeating the same movements or activities over and over again, and not responding to the surroundings normally.
These kinds of seizures involve and affect the entire areas of the brain. Below are the six main types of generalized seizures.
- Absence Seizures - This seizure was known as petit mal seizure and this occurs in kids. In it, the child exhibits signs and symptoms like staring into space, blinking the eyes, and smacking the lips repeatedly. This could occur with a combination of all the symptoms and may also cause a loss of awareness.
- Tonic Seizures - This kind of seizure affects the muscles and stiffens them. This could happen with the muscles in the back, legs, and arms and at its onset, the person may fall on the ground.
- Atonic Seizures - In this seizure, the person loses muscle control and falls on the ground. This does not stiffen the muscles but weakens them so much that the person collapses.
- Clonic Seizures - During this kind of seizure, the muscles of the person are affected. This results in the repeated jerking of the muscles in the face, arms, and neck.
- Myoclonic Seizures - These seizures are identified and characterized by an abrupt twitching and jerking of the arms and legs.
- Tonic-Clonic Seizures - This seizure was once known as the ‘grand mal seizures’ and these are the most dangerous and difficult to handle. In this seizure, the person may lose consciousness with other symptoms like the stiffness of the muscles, shaking of the body, losing bladder control, and biting of the tongue.
All of these kinds of seizures are different from each other and are characterized by different kinds of symptoms and results.
Likewise, the treatment and management strategies for each type are different and a person must follow them strictly to avoid any serious consequences.
Generalized and focal seizures differ in the way they affect the brain. Focal seizure, also known as a partial seizure, affects a certain area of the brain (image to the right), while the generalized seizure involves the entire brain (image to the left) and is more complicated than the focal seizure.
When to Acquire Medical Attention?
Having a seizure does not mean that a person has Epilepsy. Therefore, it is important that you see a doctor if you are having a seizure for the first time. Below are some of the symptoms that must be addressed immediately.
- If you are having a seizure for the first time
- The duration of the seizure is more than 5 minutes
- If the difficulty in breathing and unconsciousness persists even after the seizure
- If you have a seizure immediately after the first one ends
- If you have a high fever
- If you are having heat exhaustion
- If you are pregnant
- If you are diabetic
- If you have seriously injured yourself during the seizure
Remember that it is quite possible that you have another seizure while waiting for your turn to see the specialist. If such a thing happens, it is better to visit and consult a GP, general physician, for help and advice.
Furthermore, you should avoid certain activities to avoid any mishaps or serious consequences.
Causes, Risk Factors, and Complications of Epilepsy
Though the core causes of the disorder or condition are unknown, some cases of Epilepsy do have known causes. Knowing about the causes of the seizure is helpful in managing it better and acquiring suitable treatment.
Unfortunately, the treatment will help you in managing the condition better only. There is no cure for Epilepsy and all you can do is try to manage it better.
What are the causes of Epilepsy? The causes of this condition are categorized into 5 groups; genetic, structural, infection, immune-related, and metabolic. The causes divided into these groups are further divided into several different causes.
Genetic Causes of Epilepsy
The case of Epilepsy is considered to be genetic when the seizures are the cause of some form of genetic disorder or defect. The disease is not known to be inheritable but the chances of getting this disorder increase if any of the parents or close family members have it.
This kind of Epilepsy is further divided into the following kinds of causes.
Inherited Gene Changes
Some causes of this kind of seizure are autosomal dominant gene and autosomal recessive for the disorders related to the X chromosome.
In such a case, the child can inherit the defective gene from both or either of the parents. The condition could occur both as a result of the presence of single or double copies of the abnormal or defective gene.
Acquired Gene Changes
This kind of Epilepsy or seizure case is a result of the new variation that happened in the body of the affected person. Since the body goes through new changes, there are equal chances of inheriting and not-inheriting the condition.
Polygenic Affected Genes
This kind of cause could be a result of a number of changes in the genes. These genes could be affected by environmental or external factors. If such a thing happens, there is a high chance that other family members will also get the disease.
Structural Cause of Epilepsy
A form of Epilepsy is considered structural when the person has some specific form of reason or cause already present in the brain. This could be anything including congenital causes that influences the development of the person’s brain.
The acquired cause is when the change is a result of an injury.
Metabolic Causes of Epilepsy
The metabolic cause is when Epilepsy is the result of how the body utilizes and uses food. It can also happen when the body fails to break down some specific components in food and it disrupts the brain cells.
Many of the metabolic disorders could be genetic in nature.
Immune-Related Cause of Epilepsy
The case of Epilepsy is immune-related when the condition occurred as a result of swelling in the brain. This inflammation could be the cause of a specific kind of protein that changes the way the brain processes activities and controls the body.
Besides, a person having epilepsy as a cause of immunity is likely to have an abnormal antibody in their blood or their cerebrospinal fluid.
Infection-Related Cause of Epilepsy
When Epilepsy is caused due to some infection in the brain then it is an infection-related cause. It could happen as a result of a disease or even a head injury.
The symptoms for all of the cases of Epilepsy that occurred due to any of these reasons are different and for its successful management, it is important that you know the correct diagnosis and causes.
Due to its destructive nature, the people suffering from Epilepsy are also at a higher risk of having anxiety. It is mainly because they lack appropriate companionship and support and many are wrongly judged by the people.
In any such condition, knowing more about anxiety, its causes and treatment will be helpful.
Treatment of Epilepsy - Can it Be Cured?
Unfortunately, no. Once you develop Epilepsy it cannot be cured and all you can do is take medication to control seizures and have a healthy lifestyle to prevent them.
Some of the most common ways of managing Epilepsy are given below.
- Seizure Medication
- Ketogenic Diet
- Nerve Stimulation; vagus nerve stimulation, responsive neurostimulation
- Brain Surgery; resective surgery, disconnective surgery
- Multiple Subpial Transection (MST)
- Functional Hemispherectomy
Besides, there are a number of other kinds of surgeries that have been found to be successful in minimizing epileptic seizures. The medication may have some side effects but it is the more common way of dealing with the condition.
Is an Emotional Support Animal a Treatment Option?
Not exactly an ESA but yes, you can have a service dog to help you. A ‘seizure dog’ is specifically trained to identify the signs of the onset of the seizure and warn the owner about it.
You can research how to get a service animal if you are considering this treatment intervention.
These canines act like seizure alarms, protectors, helpers, and service providers.
How do these dogs work? These dogs are trained to alert and warn the person about the upcoming seizure. They bark and warn the person. If it is for an epileptic kid then the dog warns other family members about it, in case the child is outside.
Some dogs also lie next to the person having a seizure to prevent injuries and provide the needed support and comfort. Usually, they also put their body between the floor and the seizing person so that the person does not get any injuries as a result of the fall.
These dogs prove to be an excellent help for the people who are living with Epilepsy, and especially for those who have the condition and live alone.
For more information on Epilepsy, visit the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and Epilepsy Foundation of America.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the main causes of epilepsy?
There could be a number of reasons for epilepsy. These reasons include a brain injury, a brain infection, a stroke, an existing brain disease, drug and substance abuse, lack of oxygen at the time of birth, and excessive consumption of alcohol could lead to the condition.
Can you develop epilepsy suddenly?
Yes, epilepsy could develop at any age but it is more common in children and older people. However, 1 in 100 people is expected to have one unprovoked seizure in their life.
Does epilepsy get worse with age?
While this is yet to be confirmed but the people over 60 are more at the risk of developing the condition. The chances increase if the person has blood relatives having the said condition.
What are the 3 phases of epilepsy?
The three main phases of seizure include a beginning, prodrome and aura, the middle phase, ictal, and the final stage, post-ictal stage.
Can you inherit epilepsy?
About 30% to 40% of the cases are caused due to genetic conditions. However, the people having blood relatives with epilepsy have 2 to 4 per cent more chances of developing the condition.
Can you fight off or prevent a seizure?
The people who experience the unusual smell could ward off the onset of the seizure by sniffing another strong smell like garlic or roses. In the case of depression, headache, and overly irritable condition as the warning signs, medication could help in preventing the attack.
What is a Jacksonian seizure?
A Jacksonian seizure is a kind of focal partial seizure, which is also known as simple partial seizures. The seizure is caused due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain that influences a certain area of the brain. The person having this kind of seizure remains aware during it.
What is the life expectancy of a person with epilepsy?
The life expectancy of the people having the diagnosis of idiopathic or cryptogenic epilepsy may experience a reduction of up to 2 years. People with symptomatic epilepsy may experience a reduction of up to 10 years in their life expectancy.
However, the prognosis of reduction in life expectancy is higher at the time of diagnosis and it gets better with time.