Healthy Living

What is Epilepsy?

What is Epilepsy?

Key Takeaways

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder with abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which results in repeated seizures or fits. It is a very common condition and affects millions of people in the country. Although the condition may start at any age, it is usually found to start in childhood, in most cases. Treating the condition is important, as it may be risky during activities like swimming or driving. Many people outgrow this condition by adulthood, while it can potentially persist throughout life for other people with this condition.

Seizures may result in confusion, a spell of staring, jerking movements of the limbs, loss of consciousness, and some psychic symptoms. In general, the symptoms vary depending on the type of epilepsy. Seizures can be focal or generalized based on the part of the brain where the abnormal electrical activity is initiated. Focal or partial seizures may result when the abnormal activity begins in one part of the brain.

Thus, if the part of the brain controlling hand movements shows abnormal activity, hands may show uncontrollable jerking movements. Strange repetitive behaviors, like smacking of the lips, also may be noted. Some children may stare blankly or blink repetitively when affected by abnormal electrical activity. When all parts of the cortex show abnormal activity, generalized seizures are resulted. These people may stiffen and then show repetitive movements of the limbs and body. The person is often confused and keeps the eye open during seizures.

In most cases, it is hard to pinpoint one reason for epilepsy.

The common causes for epilepsy include:

  • Head injury – A traumatic injury to head may lead to epilepsy
  • Disorders of the brain – A number of brain conditions including brain tumors and strokes may also cause epilepsy.
  • Infections – Many infectious diseases, like meningitis and encephalitis can lead to epilepsy.
  • Developmental disorders – Autism and neurofibromatosis, developmental disorders that affect brain are associated with this condition.
  • Genetic factors – In some cases, epilepsy is found to run in families. Studies show that specific genes are associated with the development of this neurological disorder. When appropriate environmental factors are present, epilepsy may be triggered.

Epilepsy may lead to a number of complications, including drowning, accidents, and falls. When it happens during pregnancy, it may cause serious complications for both mother and the baby.

Anti-seizure and anti-epileptic medications are normally recommended for controlling epilepsy. These medications may also help in reducing the frequency of seizures. Doctors may suggest discontinuing the medications if the patient has a seizure-free period of few years. If the seizure is initiated from a small defined area in the brain and is not controlled with regular medications, surgery may be suggested. Ketogenic diet and therapies like Vagus nerve stimulation are found to be useful in alleviating the symptoms.