Epilepsy is a central nervous system (neurological) illness in which unusual brain activity results in seizures or incidents of strange behavior, sensations, and occasionally loss of consciousness. Seizures occur when the brain suddenly receives an influx of electrical activity. It is divided into two types. Seizures classified as generalized are those that impact the entire brain. Partial seizures, sometimes called focal seizures, affect a specific area of the brain at a time. Only mild seizures are likely to go undetected. It can last for a few seconds while you’re completely unaware.
More severe seizures might induce muscle spasms and jerks that last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Some people lose consciousness or become confused during a more severe seizure. Afterward, you may have no recollection of what transpired before.
Having a seizure can occur for several reasons. These are a few examples:
- a high temperature
- a traumatic brain injury
- low blood sugar levels
- a hangover after drinking too much alcohol
Epilepsy can attack anyone at any time. Consequently, men and women of various races, ethnicities, and ages are affected by epilepsy.
Henceforth, most patients with epilepsy can have their seizures under control with medication or, rarely, surgery. Seizures may be lifelong for some people, but for others, treatment can help control them. There are some children with epilepsy who will outgrow it as they get older.
Seizures are the main symptom of epilepsy. It can interfere with every process your brain coordinates since epilepsy is caused by abnormal brain activity. Symptoms of seizure include:
- Confusion for a short period
- Staring spell
- Uncontrollable jerking of arms and legs
- Consciousness or awareness loss
- Stiff Muscles
- Psychological manifestations such as fear, worry, or a sense of déjà vu
Seizures have a wide range of symptoms. People with epilepsy often experience the same type of seizure over and over again. Thus, their symptoms will remain the same no matter how long it has been since the last one.
Seizures are often classified as focal or generalized by doctors, depending on where and how the abnormal brain activity occurs.
When seizures seem to be caused by abnormal brain activity in a single area of the brain, they are referred to as focal seizures.
These seizures are classified into two types:
- Symptoms of focal seizures without losing consciousness
These seizures, which were once known as simple partial seizures, do not result in unconsciousness. They can affect emotions and the appearance of things, smell, feel, taste, and sound. Deja vu is a phenomenon that affects some people. Additionally, this type of seizure may cause an uncontrollable jerking of one body part, such as an arm or leg, as well as spontaneous sensory symptoms like dizziness, tingling, and flashing lights.
- Symptoms of focal seizures with reduced awareness.
These seizures, which were previously known as complex partial seizures, are characterized by a change or loss of consciousness or awareness. These seizures can make you feel like you’re dreaming. This type of seizure causes you to look into space and not react normally to the environment. You may also do repeated activities such as chewing, swallowing, and walking in circles while having a focal seizure with impaired consciousness.
Focal seizures may present with symptoms similar to those associated with other neurological disorders like migraine, narcolepsy, or mental illness. Conduct a complete physical examination and a series of tests to identify epilepsy from other disorders.
Generalized seizures are seizures that seem to affect all parts of the brain. Seizures classified as generalized can be divided into six types:
- Absence seizures
Petit mal seizures, also known as absence seizures, are most commonly seen in kids. Symptoms include staring into space for 5-10 seconds, with or without subtle body movements like lip smacking or eye blinking. There can be up to 100 seizures every day, and each one causes the sufferer to lose consciousness for a brief period.
- Atonic seizures
Atonic seizures, alternatively referred to as drop seizures, are characterized by a loss of muscular control. Given the fact that this most frequently affects the legs, it results in you collapsing or falling.
- Tonic seizures
Stiff muscles and loss of consciousness are symptoms of tonic seizures. Seizures that affect your back, arms, and legs are common, and they can lead you to lose your balance and fall.
- Tonic-clonic seizures
Tonic-clonic seizures, formerly called grand mal seizures, are the most severe kind of epilepsy seizure. They can result in a sudden loss of consciousness and stiffness, twitching, or shaking of the body. They can occasionally result in loss of bladder control or tongue biting.
- Clonic seizures
Clonic seizures are characterized by jerking muscle movements that are recurrent or rhythmic. Neck, face, and arm spasms are the most common symptoms of these seizures.
- Myoclonic seizures
Myoclonic seizures generally occur as short jerks or twitches in the upper body, legs, or arms.
Generally, doctors begin by prescribing medication for epilepsy. If the medicine is not working, doctors may recommend surgery or another sort of treatment.
Antiseizure medicine is the first-line treatment for epilepsy. These medications help in the reduction of seizure frequency and severity. They cannot halt an ongoing seizure, nor are they a cure for epilepsy.
The stomach absorbs the medicine. Following that, it goes through the bloodstream to the brain. It acts on neurotransmitters in such a way that it suppresses the electrical activity associated with seizures. Antiepileptic drugs are excreted in the urine after they have passed through the digestive system. They function by reducing the frequency and severity of the seizure.
Seizure drugs come in a wide variety of forms. Depending on the type of seizures you have, your doctor may prescribe a single medicine or a combination of medications. You can also order these medicines on pharmacy delivery websites.
Among the most often prescribed epilepsy drugs are:
- carbamazepine (Tegretol)
- ethosuximide (Zarontin)
- lamotrigine (Lamictal)
- levetiracetam (Keppra)
- topiramate (Topamax)
- valproic acid (Depakote)
These drugs are often given once or twice daily in tablet, liquid, or injectable form. You’ll begin with the smallest amount possible and gradually increase it until it begins to function. Take these medicines regularly and according to the directions on the label.
Several possible adverse effects include the following:
- skin rash
- poor coordination
- memory problems
Depression and inflammation of the liver or other organs are uncommon but severe side effects.
Follow these measures to achieve the most seizure control possible with medication:
- Avoid taking drugs without a prescription.
- Before using a generic drug or any other prescription, over-the-counter, or natural remedies, talk to your doctor first.
- Never discontinue taking your prescription without first consulting your doctor.
- Notify your doctor right away if you have new or increased suicidal thoughts, depression, or unusual changes in your mood or behavior.
- Inform your physician if you suffer from migraines. Your doctor may prescribe an antiepileptic drug to help prevent migraines and treat epilepsy.
Epilepsy is different for each individual. However, the majority of people improve on antiseizure medicine. Some children with epilepsy see a reduction in seizures and can discontinue the medication. At least half of newly diagnosed epilepsy patients will achieve seizure-free status with their first medication. If antiepileptic medicines are ineffective, your doctor may recommend surgery or other therapy. Your doctor will schedule regular follow-up sessions to evaluate your condition and medications.
Surgery may be an option if medication is not able to make a meaningful difference in the frequency of seizures. The most often performed procedure is a resection. This procedure entails removing the portion of the brain that causes the seizures. A temporal lobectomy is a frequently performed treatment to remove the temporal lobe. It can occasionally result in the cessation of seizure activity.
You may be kept awake for this operation in some instances. It allows surgeons to communicate with you and avoid destroying a portion of the brain that controls critical capabilities like vision, hearing, speech, and movement.
Another option is multiple subpial transections or brain disconnection if the affected area is too large or crucial to remove. Cuts are made in the brain to disrupt the neural route. Seizures can’t spread to other parts of the brain because of this. Following surgery, some patients can reduce or even discontinue their antiseizure medication.
Any surgery carries hazards, including an adverse reaction to the anesthesia, bleeding, and infection. Occasionally, brain surgery might result in cognitive abnormalities. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various procedures with your surgeon and obtain a second opinion before making a final choice.
When to consult a doctor?
Obtain emergency medical treatment if any of the following happen:
- Seizures last longer than five minutes.
- After the seizure has ended, neither breathing nor consciousness returns.
- A second seizure occurs immediately afterward.
- You are suffering from a high fever.
- You have diabetes.
- You are pregnant.
- You sustained an injury during the seizure.
- You continue to experience seizures even though you are on antiseizure medication.
If this is your first seizure, seek medical attention.
How to Provide Care for Someone Suffering from a Seizure?
Epilepsy management differs according to the frequency and kind of seizures. The patient must take anticonvulsant medicine consistently to avoid seizures.
When a seizure occurs, the witness should exercise caution to avoid injury:
- Cushion the patient’s head.
- Loosen any constricting neckwear.
- Turn the patient over on their side.
- Do not confine or suffocate the patient.
- Avoid putting anything in their mouth or attempting to pry the teeth apart. The patient is not at risk of swallowing their tongue.
- Not attempt to move the patient unless they are immediately in danger.
- Keep an eye out for seizure features such as duration, type of movement, and direction of head or eye turning. These traits may aid the doctor in diagnosing the seizure type.