What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a long term seizure disorder. It is characterized by unfounded and repeated seizures for the sufferer. Epilepsy happens due to an unexpected imbalance in the brain’s electrical system.
There are so many myths and stigma surrounding what Epilepsy is in our society. Some people believe epilepsy is infectious. Some believe it is a form of curse from the ‘gods’. What Epilepsy actually is, is a disorder of the nervous system. It cannot be transmitted from one person to the other. Though, Epilepsy has no cure, it can be well treated to make the sufferer symptom free, with the correct medications.
What causes Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is mostly idiopathic. That is, the cause is usually unknown.
However, some types of this seizure disorder may be genetically inherited.
Other causes of Epilepsy include:
- Head trauma
- Infectious brain diseases like meningitis
- Metabolic disorders like vitamin B deficiencies
- Brain tumours
- Congenital abnormalities in the brain.
Types of Epileptic seizures
There are two main divisions of epileptic seizures.
- Focal onset seizure
- Generalized onset seizure
Focal onset epileptic seizure
Focal epilepsy is also known as Partial onset seizure. It is a seizure that starts from one side of the brain. It sometimes spreads to other areas of the brain.
Some people experiencing a focal seizure may be aware of what is going on, while others may not be conscious at the time of onset.
Generalized onset epileptic seizure
This is is a type of seizure that starts from both sides of the brain at the same time.
Some types of Generalized seizures include:
Absence (Petit mal) seizures
In this type of seizure, a person loses consciousness for a few seconds. He just stops all ongoing activities and stares into space. He does not respond to external stimuli, and this continues until the wave of seizure subsides.
Tonic-clonic (Grand-mal) seizures
This type of epileptic seizure combines tonic (stiffening) and clonic (spasming) episodes.
The person loses balance and consciousness as their muscles become rigid. He struggles to breathe as his chest muscles go into contraction.
Then,the person goes into spasm. His face is flushed, saliva can be seen foaming from the mouth and he may lose bladder control.
What are Epilepsy symptoms?
- Sensations of strange smell, sight or taste prior to fit
- Loss of awareness for short periods of time
- Unexpected falls
- Twitching of eyelids for no reason
- Strange staring into space
- Roaming around a room without direction
- Chewing gestures for no reason
- Irritability and anger
- Sudden Anxiety and fear
- Sudden jerking of a part of the body without a reason
- Loss of consciousness
How is epilepsy diagnosed?
Epilepsy is usually diagnosed through physical and neurological exams.
- It can be diagnosed through array of physical symptoms the person has had or if he has had two or more seizure attacks.
- Electroencephalography is also done to measure the electrical activities in the brain and detect abnormalities.
- History of the person is taken to determine if there has been issues of brain diseases or head injuries
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging MRI is done to check for brain tumours, or stroke incidents
- Biochemical blood tests are carried out to detect any imbalance in electrolytes. Some electrolyte imbalances may cause seizures
- Metabolic diseases like diabetes are also tested for to rule out seizures caused by hypoglycemia and the likes
- Serologic tests are done to know if seizures are caused by viral diseases like HIV.
Treatment of Epilepsy
- Anti convulsants are recommended for you by your healthcare provider. These help calm the abnormal activities of the electrical signals in the brain.
- You need to visit the hospital regularly for reassessment of your medications and further tests to ascertain how well the medications are working.
- Your weight needs to be regularly monitored, as some of the anti epileptic drugs are dosed according to a person’s weight. So if there are changes in weight, your dosages may need to be adjusted.
- Eat good, nutritious foods with adequate vitamins, especially foods rich in vitamin B. Such foods include chicken, beef, green leafy vegetables,eggs and fish.
- Keep a journal to monitor your seizure symptoms and progression. Show it to your neurologist during routine visits.
What to do for someone having a seizure
- Do not leave them alone
- Maintain a clear airway for them by turning them on the side
- Stay around them to make sure nothing injurious to them gets in their path
- Do not attempt to restrain their movements, unless a fall off the stairs or a building is imminent
- Avoid crowding with many people around them
- Take off their glasses or anything on them that may cause more harm
- Do not insert any object in their mouth
- Use your watch to note the start and duration of the seizure
- Do not leave until the person becomes calm
- Clean them up as necessary
- Take them to the hospital for further aid.
This is a life threatening seizure disorder. It comprises of an uninterrupted seizure episode that lasts more than thirty minutes. It can also be when two or more seizures occur back to back without the person regaining consciousness in between.
Most people that have Status epilepticus already present with an ongoing diagnosis of Epilepsy. It could get to this stage if the affected person does not comply well with their medications.
However,it may also happen in people with no seizure episode in their clinical history. Such people may have:
- Severe fever. This occurs mostly in children
- Cerebrovascular disease
- Ingestion of too much alcohol
- Persons with severe low blood sugar
Status epilepticus is a serious condition that requires immediate medical assistance. As soon as a seizure goes on for more than five minutes,seek medical help as soon as possible.
Preventing Status Epilepticus
- If you have Epilepsy, make sure you comply with your medications and visit your neurologist regularly for assessment
- A diabetic person needs to ensure they balance medications and food appropriately. Try to avoid going into hypoglycaemia
- Do not indulge in too much alcohol,and stay away from drug abuse
- Children with fever should be immediately attended to. Do not allow their fever to linger for so long
- Persons with liver, kidney and heart diseases should visit the hospitals regularly for assessment.
Epilepsy is a disease of the brain. People with epilepsy should not be stigmatized. Rather, they should be assisted in improving their lives and reducing instances of complications.