There are more than 65 million epilepsy patients all over the world. A seizure is a sudden onset of electrical activity within the brain that leads to the body exhibiting a range of identifiable epilepsy symptoms. These seizures are generally recurrent in nature. Although most patients have an image in their mind regarding what seizures look like (they picture grand mal seizures), the rapid movement of the body along with unconsciousness is not the only way a seizure presents itself. Epilepsy symptoms depend on whether the patient suffers from a generalized seizure or a focal one. In the former, the seizure occurs in the entire part of the brain while in the latter, it only occurs in a specific part of the brain. In this article, we will explore everything there is to know about epilepsy including what causes it’s and how its occurrence can be treated.
Epilepsy Causes: Why Does This Happen?
Did you know that with 6 out 10 patients, doctors cannot identify why the seizures occur? However, having said that, there are a few epilepsy causes that doctors suspect when a patient first comes in for a check-up. Some of these include the following:
- A traumatic brain injury
- Very high fever
- Scarring in the brain after the patient recovers from a traumatic injury
- Lack of oxygen in the brain
- Brain tumour
- Vascular diseases
- Prenatal injury
- Lack of oxygen during foetal development
- Brain malformation
- Prenatal drug use
While the general population only has a 1% chance of developing epilepsy before they hit 20 years of age, people who have parents suffering from this condition have a 2-5% chance of developing the same. Thus, one can say that hereditary factors do play a role in the development of this condition.
Epilepsy Symptoms: What to Look Out For?
As stated earlier, epilepsy symptoms depend on the part of the brain suffering from the seizure. The following are a range of symptoms that patients may experience:
Focal Seizures (Partial Seizures):
Patients may experience:
- Random twitching of limbs
- Alterations in the sense of smell, touch, hearing, sight, and taste
Patients suffering from complex partial seizures can experience:
- Staring blankly
- Being unresponsive
- Performing repetitive movements
Generalized Seizures (Seizures in the Entire Brain):
These types of seizures are classified into 6 different types, and the symptoms that a patient may experience vary according to the type of seizure he/she suffers from:
- Tonic seizures: These cause muscle stiffness
- Clonic seizures: These cause repeated jerky movements within the muscles of the face, neck and arms
- Atonic seizures: These cause the loss of muscle control and make patients fall down suddenly
- Myoclonic seizures: These cause a spontaneous and very quick twitching of the legs and arms
- Absence seizures: These cause constant repetitive movements like lip smacking and rapid blinking. They are also known as petit mal seizures.
- Tonic Clonic seizures: These are also known as grand mal seizures and they cause shaking, stiffening of the body, voiding of the bladder, voiding of the bowel, loss of consciousness and biting of the tongue.
Epilepsy Triggers: Can certain things trigger seizures?
Yes, even though seizures are generally classified as unpredictable, there are certain environmental and behavioral factors that can trigger their occurrence. These epilepsy triggers are:
- Certain medications
- Bright lights
- Lack of sleep
- Flashing lights
- Skipping meals
- Specific food ingredients
Epilepsy Treatments: What Can be Done?
As this is a known condition, there are various forms of epilepsy treatments that a doctor may prescribe a patient. However, since each person is unique, they respond to the treatments differently. This is why doctors may rely on multiple treatments for the same patient. Some of these include:
- Anti-epilepsy medications: These medications are used to treat seizures. Some of them only reduce the occurrence of seizures. Generally, this is a treatment type that is ongoing and patients must take their medicines for the rest of their lives.
- Vagus nerve stimulator: This is a device that is placed in the chest in order to stimulate the vagus nerve, which is located in the neck. This can prevent he occurrence of seizures.
- Keto diet: According to most treatment related data, over half the patients who do not respond to any treatment methods do respond well to a high fat and low carb diet, such as the ketogenic diet.
- Brain surgery: Some patients may benefit from the removal of the epileptic portion of the brain.
Apart from these forms of treatment, researchers are currently studying newer techniques to help patients gain more conclusive relief from their symptoms.