Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that is located in the central nervous system, in which brain activity becomes abnormal. This abnormality will cause seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness.
Anyone, in any stage of life, can develop epilepsy. There is no discrimination when it comes to epilepsy, it affects both males and females of all races and ethnic backgrounds.
There are a wide variety of seizure symptoms. While some people with epilepsy will simply stare blankly for a few seconds during a seizure, others will repeatedly twitch their arms or legs. Please bear in mind that if you have a single seizure it doesn’t mean you have epilepsy. At least two unprovoked seizures are typically required to be diagnosed as epileptic.
There are options though; treatment with medications or sometimes surgery can control seizures for the majority of people with epilepsy. Some people require lifelong treatment to control seizures, but for others, the seizures eventually go away. In some cases, children with epilepsy may outgrow the condition with age.
Epilepsy has no identifiable cause in about half the people with the condition. However,
the terms “genetic,” “structural-metabolic,” and “unknown” are the expressions used to categorize the causes of epilepsy in those that are traceable to various factors.
The genetic influence run in families, and is categorized by the specific seizure that you experience, or the part of the brain that is affected. There is research that links some types of epilepsy to certain genes, however for most people, these genes are only a small part of the cause of their epilepsy. A person may also be triggered by environmental conditions due to certain genes being more sensitive.
Structural-metabolic is more difficult to define. This term has incorporates outside factors such as immune-mediated or inflammatory processes that are not explicitly recognized, however their importance as a cause of epilepsy is rapidly getting more recognized.
The unknown cause can be a multitude of factors. If you haven’t experienced signs of epilepsy but have started having an onset of seizures it could be due to outside factors such as, head trauma, brain conditions such as tumors, or often strokes. There are other developmental disorders, such as autism or neurofibromatosis that could be included as well.
There are multiple complications associated with having a seizure, and at certain times can lead to circumstances that are dangerous to yourself or others. If you fall during a seizure, you are likely to injure your head or even break a bone. If you have epilepsy, you’re 15 to 19 times more likely to drown while swimming or bathing than the rest of the population because of the possibility of having a seizure while in the water. A seizure that causes either loss of awareness or loss of control can be dangerous if you’re driving a car or operating equipment. Seizures during pregnancy pose dangers to both the mother and the baby, and certain anti-epileptic medications increase the risk of birth defects. However, most women with epilepsy can become pregnant and have will have healthy babies.
People diagnosed with epilepsy are more likely to have psychological problems, especially depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Problems may be a result of difficulties dealing with the neurological condition itself as well as side effects of specific medications.
There are other life-threatening complications of epilepsy that are uncommon, but may happen, such as status epilepticus. This occurs if you’re in a state of continuous seizure activity lasting more than five minutes, or if you have frequent recurrent seizures without regaining full consciousness in between episodes. People with status epilepticus have an increased risk of permanent brain damage or even death. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is rare, but can be a tragic result of epilepsy. Overall, only about 1 percent of people with epilepsy die of SUDEP.
There is a multitude of research and studies happening to find treatments for epilepsy. Some of the potential new treatments include deep brain stimulation, which surgeons will implant electrodes into the thalamus, generally. These electrodes will be connected to a generator that is implanted in your chest that, in turn, sends electrical pulses to your brain and can reduce your seizures.
Another option is responsive neurostimulation where an implantable pacemaker device that will help prevent seizures. These responsive neurostimulators will analyze your brain activity and patterns to detect seizures before they happen, delivering an electrical charge or medication to avoid the seizure.
There are a handful of treatments that are available, beginning with medication. The second type of treatment is a change of lifestyle mixed with therapy sessions, that will be highly detailed and personalized by Dr. Deborah Cantrell and her amazing staff at Elite Neuroscience Center. It’s never too late to seek help; if you or a loved one is having difficulty struggling with seizures, come see us today.