Epilepsy or seizures
Types, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments
Facts You Should Know About Epilepsy and Seizures
What is epilepsy?
Most often noted as “seizures” or “fits”, epilepsy is a common medical condition arising due to an abnormal activity of the brain cells.
Epilepsy usually affects at extremes of age: small children or elderly. Many children get over this condition with age.
What causes epilepsy/seizures?
The normal functioning of our brain is controlled by certain organised electric currents. When these currents become suddenly abnormal, they may lead to seizures. Such abnormal currents are generated due to damage to the ‘cerebral cortex’ which is a superficial area of the brain, due to:
- Head injury due to accident
- Damage to a baby’s brain during delivery
- Genetic disorders and malformation in the brain
- Infection of the brain such as meningitis, encephalitis, and neurocysticercosis
- Brain tumour
Sometimes, an abnormality of the brain cells may also result in epilepsy, even in the absence of any external damage.
What are the symptoms of epilepsy?
The severity of convulsions or the fits usually depends on the location of abnormal current or the area of brain affected. Accordingly, the different types of seizures are:
- The current affects the entire brain.
- The person may fall on the ground, shake all over and becomes stiff.
- Frothing from the mouth, involuntary urination, and tongue biting may also occur.
- This is usually followed by a period of confusion.
- This kind of seizure occurs when the abnormal currents are limited to a small portion of brain.
- The person is generally conscious but may have minor symptoms like abnormal jerking of limbs.
How is epilepsy diagnosed?
Your doctor or neurologist will generally be able to diagnose your conditions by undertaking:
- A thorough medical history
- Physical examination
- An electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor the electrical activity of brain
- A CT scan to identify any areas of damage to the brain
- An MRI scan
- Blood test to rule out any other underlying cause
What is the treatment for epilepsy?
- Medications: In most of the cases, medications may help control the seizures completely. Typically, the medication needs to be administered for a long duration. However, one should not discontinue medications without the advice of a neurologist, even in the absence of seizures for a long time.
- Surgery: In some cases, medications may not be sufficient to control epilepsy completely. In such cases, surgical interventions may be required. Some common surgical approaches are:
- Vagus nerve stimulation: The vagus nerve stimulator is implanted in the chest and wires from the stimulator are connected to the vagus nerve. Stimulation of the vagus nerve reduces the seizure attacks.
- Deep brain stimulation: Electrodes are placed into the brain targets, typically thalamus. They are connected to the generator implanted in the chest. Doctors then send electrical impulses to the brain to reduce the seizures by means of the hand-held device.
- Lobectomy: Removal of a part of the brain that is the focus for seizures.
- Lesionectomy: The nerve pathways which are responsible for seizure impulses are disrupted
What should one do to help a person having convulsions or fits?
If you come across someone having a seizure attack, DO NOT PANIC. Follow the below steps carefully.
- Make the person lie down on a flat surface and turn over to one side.
- Remove any object that may injure the person from the vicinity.
- If there is something in the mouth, remove it to prevent choking.
- Do not force anything inside the mouth of a person having fits.
- Do not resort to measures such as smelling objects like slippers, onions, etc., as they are ineffective in controlling seizures.
- Generally a seizure lasts for 2-3 minutes, after which the person may feel sleepy or confused. If the seizure continues for longer, call for emergency help.
- Do not force water or food until the person is fully conscious.
What precautions should a person with epilepsy or seizures take?
- If you suspect having epilepsy, seek consultation with your neurologist immediately.
- Always continue the medications prescribed by the doctor, even if you do not have any fits.
- Always have adequate sleep and regular meals. Stress and lack of sleep may trigger a seizure attack.
- If someone is having active epilepsy (experiencing fitsor convulsions regularly), avoid driving a vehicle or indulging in sports activities like swimming, working with heavy machinery, etc.
- Always consult the doctor before taking any other medication, as they can interfere with the epilepsy medications and change their effect.
- Keep your morale high and do not consider epilepsy as a stigma. Any person suffering from epilepsy can normally engage in studies, work and daily routine activities and can achieve high standards in life.
To know more about epilepsy and its management, you can request for a call back and our Epilepsy or Seizures specialists will call you and answer all your queries.
Our blogs on Epilepsy you may like to read:
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Epilepsy Information Page. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Epilepsy-Information-Page. Accessed on 27th December 2017.
- Mayo Clinic. Epilepsy. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/epilepsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20350093. Accessed on 27th December 2017.
- US National Library of Medicine. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMHT0023036/. Accessed on 27th December 2017.
- NHS. Epilepsy. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/epilepsy/. Accessed on 27th December 2017.
- World Health Organization. Epilepsy. Available at: who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs999/en/. Accessed on 27th December 2017.