EPILEPSY – Brain Electrical Surge
Epilepsy is a Brain disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness. This problem affects both males and females of all ages or ethnic background. For an individual to be diagnosed as having epilepsy, such person must have had at least two unprovoked seizures.
What is a Seizure Disorder?
The definition varies widely from an episode of simply staring blankly and being unaware of one’s environment to repeated twitching or jerking of one’s arms and legs.
When an individual is diagnosed with epilepsy (seizure disorder), He or She may require medication for the rest of their lives or sometimes surgery to control the seizures. For some people, the seizures may eventually go away. Some children with epilepsy may outgrow the condition as they grow up.
WHAT IS THIS BRAIN EVENT THAT LEADS TO SEIZURES
The brain controls all activities of the human body through the many connections of neurons in the nervous system. The nervous system is made up of billions of unit cells called neurons which are connected to one another to form the brain and the nerves in the body. Electrical impulses are initiated by these neurons in the brain through movement of electrolytes in the neurons. These electrical impulses are carried to other parts of the brain and the whole body where they generate the necessary actions that our body engages in.
Seizure episode arises when there is a sudden unexpected high-firing of these electrical impulses from the brain (similar to an electrical surge in the electrical supply in our homes). This high firing or up-surge may arise in one part of the brain (focal seizures) or it may arise from a widespread part of the brain (generalized seizures). The understanding of this mechanism highlights the two broad categories of seizure disorders which are (a) Generalized Seizures (b) Focal seizures.
These electrical activities of the brain can be recorded through the use of an en equipment called the Electroencephalogram (EEG). This is one of the tests your Doctor may order if you have epilepsy.
These two types of seizure disorders are further categorized into different subtypes based on (i) Time of onset (ii) Whether there is a loss of consciousness or not (ii) Whether there is a movement of the body or not. Generalized Seizures have six sub-types, there are two subtypes of Partial seizures.
GENERALIZED SEIZURES- Six Subtypes
- Absence seizures. Absence seizures, previously known as petit mal seizures, often occur in children and are characterized by staring into space or subtle body movements such as eye blinking or lip smacking. These seizures may occur in clusters and cause a brief loss of awareness.
- Tonic seizures. Tonic seizures cause stiffening of your muscles. These seizures usually affect muscles in your back, arms, and legs and it may cause you to fall to the ground.
- Atonic seizures. Atonic seizures, also known as drop seizures, cause a loss of muscle control, which may cause you to suddenly collapse or fall down.
- Clonic seizures. Clonic seizures are associated with repeated or rhythmic, jerking muscle movements. These seizures usually affect the neck, face, and arms.
- Myoclonic seizures. Myoclonic seizures usually appear as sudden brief jerks or twitches of your arms and legs.
- Tonic-clonic seizures. Tonic-clonic seizures, previously known as grand mal seizures, are the most dramatic type of epileptic seizure and can cause an abrupt loss of consciousness, body stiffening and shaking, and sometimes loss of bladder control or biting your tongue.
PARTIAL SEIZURES-Two Subtypes
- With a loss of Consciousness
- Without loss of consciousness
WHAT CAUSES EPILEPSY?
Causes of epilepsy vary by age of the person. In some cases epilepsy may have a genetic cause; in this case, no physical or identifiable cause of seizures is known. Generally speaking, the cause is unknown for about half of everyone with epilepsy irrespective of the age.
Structural abnormality: Some young children may be born with a structural change in an area of the brain that gives rise to seizures.
Prenatal Injury: Damage to the brain before birth resulting from illnesses affecting a pregnant mother. Such illnesses include; infection in mother, poor nutrition, poor nutrition, and oxygen deficiency. This brain damage can result in epilepsy or cerebral palsy.
Autism: About 3 out of 10 children with autism spectrum disorder may also have seizures. The exact cause and relationship are still not clear.
Infections of the brain: are also common causes of epilepsy. The initial infections are treated with medication, but the infection can leave scarring on the brain that causes seizures at a later time.
Head Injuries: People of all ages can have head injuries, though severe head injuries happen most often in young adults.
Strokes: In middle-aged individuals and individual ages 65 and above.
Brain tumors and injuries are more frequent in middle-aged individuals. New onset seizure disorder in this age group gives a high index of suspicion of a brain tumor.
Other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that affect brain function can also cause seizures
GENERAL SYMPTOMS OF EPILEPSY
- Temporary confusion
- A staring spell
- Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
- Loss of consciousness or awareness
- Psychic symptoms such as fear, anxiety or deja vu
These generalized symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure. In most cases, a person with epilepsy will tend to have the same type of seizure each time, so the symptoms will be similar from episode to episode.
OTHER CAUSES OF SEIZURES INCLUDE:
- High Fever especially in children below the age of Six
- Heat exhaustion
- Low Blood sugar which may result from multiple causes. This is usually seen in Diabetic individuals using insulin without eating.
TREATMENT OF EPILEPSY
As in many illnesses, seizure disorders can be controlled by the use of medications which reduces these high electrical firing from the brain. Your Doctor will work with you in identifying which of these medications works best for your type of seizures
COMPLICATIONS OF EPILEPSY
Car accidents. A seizure that causes either loss of awareness or control can be dangerous if you’re driving a car or operating other equipment. For this reason, many industrialized countries have driver’s license restrictions for individuals with epilepsy.
Falling. If you fall during a seizure, you can injure your head or break a bone.
Drowning. The possibility of having seizures while in water is higher if you have epilepsy. For this reason, you’re 15 to 19 times more likely to drown while swimming or bathing than the rest of the population
Pregnancy complications. Most women with epilepsy can become pregnant and have healthy babies. It is however known that seizures during pregnancy pose dangers to both mother and baby, and certain anti-epileptic medications increase the risk of birth defects. If you have epilepsy and you’re considering becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor as you plan your pregnancy.
Emotional health issues. People with epilepsy are more likely to have psychological problems, especially depression and suicidal thoughts, anxiety disorder, and generalized emotional instability. These problems may be a result of difficulties dealing with the condition itself as well as medication side effects.
LIFE-THREATENING COMPLICATIONS OF EPILEPSY
These complications are very uncommon especially if you are being monitored and strict compliance with your treatment recommendation is adhered to.
Status epilepticus. This condition 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 them. People with status epilepticus have an increased risk of permanent brain damage and death.
Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). This is thought to be related to the effect of seizure on the heart or lung function resulting in sudden unexpected death. People with a high risk of SUDEP are individuals with tonic-clonic seizures that aren’t controlled by medications.
WHAT EPILEPSY IS NOT.
Epilepsy is not a Mystical or Supernatural phenomenon characterized by demonic possessions as believed by many people in the developing parts of the world. Ironically, their interventions to this illness have resulted in more harm to individuals with epilepsy. Such inhuman treatments include; burning of children’s feet, drinking of urine and ammonia-containing substances and exorcism.
Worse still, is the Excommunication of such individuals from the society under this erroneous belief. The consequence of all these is the development of psychological and psychiatric illnesses such as Depression and Suicide, Anxiety disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and generalized poor social functioning.
Finally, Epilepsy is not infectious as believed by many people who have this erroneous belief that contact with the saliva of an epileptic person results in contacting this disease.