Healthy Living

Epilepsy and Its Effects On the Body

Epilepsy and Its Effects On the Body

Key Takeaways

  • Epilepsy affects almost three million Americans.
  • Some people with epilepsy may develop depression.
  • SUDEP (sudden unexpected death of someone with epilepsy) is a complication of epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder with seizures as its main symptom.

Epilepsy in the Body: What are the Effects?

Epilepsy is a common brain disorder affecting almost three million Americans. This condition can be caused by an injury or illness but most cases have no known cause. Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system. Thus, the effects of epilepsy are felt in the entire body. Because this frightening condition is unpredictable, emotional changes may be experienced. Some people may develop severe depression.

In this article we will discuss the effects of epilepsy on the different functions of the body.

Central Nervous System

The brain is considered the command center of the body. It controls all voluntary and involuntary movements in the body. Electrical impulses from the brain tell the body what to do. When these signals are altered, like producing excess electrical activity, a person can have seizures. 

Seizures have two types:

Partial or Focal Seizures – These seizures occur when there are abnormal electrical activities limited to one area of the brain. Prior to the seizure, some people experience warning signs like a feeling of euphoria. Changes in sight, smell and hearing may also occur.

Generalized Seizures – These seizures begin on both sides of the brain, but their exact location cannot be traced. Generalized seizures may cause loss of consciousness. 

An individual having a seizure may completely be unresponsive. When the seizure passes, the person may feel fatigued.

Digestive and Muscular Systems

Epilepsy and the medications used to treat the condition may cause digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting and heartburn. Diarrhea and constipation may also occur. Children with epilepsy may experience abdominal pain. Bladder and bowel control may be lost in some cases.

During a seizure, the muscles tend to contract and relax due to the misfires from the brain. Uncontrollable jerky movements of the arms and legs can occur. Muscle tone can be lost rapidly. The seizure can also affect the muscles surrounding the vocal cords. When this happens, the vocal cords will push out air which will result in a scream or cry.

Respiratory and Circulatory Systems

Epilepsy and seizures can affect both breathing and heartbeat. Coughing and shortness of breath may occur when the respiratory and circulatory systems are affected. In some cases, the victim may choke. Epilepsy can increase the chance of having stroke and heart disease in the long term. A complication of epilepsy called SUDEP (sudden unexpected death of someone with epilepsy) is sometimes thought to be caused by heart and breathing problems. 

Reproductive System

Epilepsy doesn’t have a direct effect on the reproductive system, but it can have an effect during pregnancy. Women with epilepsy experience more seizures while they are pregnant. Although most women with epilepsy are able to keep their bodies healthy during pregnancy and are able to deliver healthy babies, they still have a higher risk of stillbirth or delivering a baby that’s underweight. Thus, women with epilepsy who plan to have a baby must be closely monitored during pregnancy.