What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder which causes abnormal brain activity, resulting in seizures, unusual behaviour and even loss of consciousness. The hallmark of this condition is recurrent and unprovoked seizures. Epilepsy can affect anyone regardless of their age and background. An individual is diagnosed with epilepsy if they have experience two or more episodes of unprovoked seizures, or even with one seizure, there is 60% increased risk of having next seizure.

Epilepsy can present itself through various signs and symptoms, including:

  • Uncontrolled jerking movement of the extremities
  • Temporary confusion
  • Brief periods of staring blankly
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Loss of awareness or consciousness
  • Unresponsiveness

In most cases, it is hard to determine the cause of epilepsy. Possible causes are:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Cyst or tumour in the brain
  • Stroke
  • Meningitis, AIDS and other infectious diseases
  • Very high fever or serious illness
  • Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • Neurological diseases or developmental disorders
  • Environmental triggers
  • Genetics

How is Epilepsy treated?

In many cases, epilepsy can be managed and controlled. Treatment plans depend on the patient’s health, severity of symptoms and their response to therapy. Doctors will prescribe anti-epileptic or anticonvulsant drugs to control epileptic attacks and eliminate seizures. If the condition is very serious and medication is not helpful in selected cases where a focus has been recognised, the doctor will recommend a resection surgery. This is a complex yet standardized procedure that involves the removal of the part of the brain which is causing the seizures. Patients may also be given vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) where a device is implanted to stimulate the vagus nerve to protect the brain from abnormal electrical activities

What are Seizures?

A seizure can be described as a sudden excessive and uncontrolled electrical disturbance in the brain. It is characterised by uncontrolled movements of the limbs, behavioural changes and loss of consciousness. If a person experiences two or more episodes of seizures, they are likely to have epilepsy.

There are two major types of seizures:

Focal seizures: These are limited to a specific part of the brain and can cause variety of physical and emotional symptoms depending upon the part of the brain It is also known as partial seizure.

Generalised seizures: These occur due to rapid spread of electrical impulse to whole of the brain. They cause muscle spasms, fainting spells and falls. Generalised seizures are further classified into six types based on symptoms – tonic, clonic, tonic-clonic, atonic, myoclonic and absence seizures.

Seizures are triggered or caused by various factors. Some of these include:

  • High fever
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Bright or flashing lights
  • Head trauma
  • Very low blood sugar
  • Alcohol or drug withdrawal
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