Neurology

Epilepsy

Description

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder which occurs when the activity of nerve cells in the brain becomes disrupted causing repeated seizures, sensation, unusual behavior or loss of consciousness. The nerve cells are responsible to send electrical signals to the brain and communicate, but when an epilepsy occurs, these cells fire unlimited electrical impulses that makes the brain behave strangely.

Types of epilepsy

  • Idiopathic epilepsy, where the cause is completely unknown

  • Symptomatic epilepsy, where the cause is known

Causes and symptoms

Epilepsy can affect a person at any age, but it most often occurs in either childhood or older age. The specific reason behind this condition is unknown, but there are some risk factors that can increase the chances, which are:

  • Stroke

  • Brain tumor

  • Severe head injuries

  • Family history

  • AIDS or other viral infections

  • Prenatal injury

  • Developmental disorders

Symptoms of epilepsy may vary from person to person. Some experience a strange unawareness of the environment or lose consciousness while others suffer a trance like state for a few moments. Below are mentioned some of the common symptoms of epilepsy:

  • Seizures

  • Confusion

  • A staring spell

  • Loss of consciousness or awareness

  • High fever

  • Déjà vu kind of feeling

  • Stiffness or twitching

  • Sudden strong feeling of joy or fear

Diagnosis

Your doctor may perform several medical tests to find out what type of epilepsy you are diagnosed with, as different seizures respond to different treatment. The tests are performed when you have had more than one seizure as many people usually have one episode of such attack during their lifetime. The diagnosis tests include:

  • Family medical history

  • Neurological exams

  • Blood tests

  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)

  • CT scan

  • MRI

  • PET scan

  • Single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT)

  • Neuropsychological tests

  • Spinal tap

Treatment

Treatment of epilepsy depends on how severe the condition is affecting the person and the results of the diagnostic tests. Here are mentioned, how epilepsy can be treated:

  • Medication: The majority of the epilepsy cases can be treated by drugs. It is the initial line of treatment where anti-seizure medications known as anti-epileptic drugs (AED) and anticonvulsants are given to the patient to become seizure free. These medications are quite effective in making the person live a normal life free from epileptic episodes after taking them for a couple of years continuously. However, it may difficult to find the right medication and its dosage. Hence, you may need to take a lower dosage at the start and if ineffective to stop seizures, the doctor can increase the dose gradually and accordingly.

  • Surgery: Epilepsy surgery is another widely used treatment method if test results show the seizures are originated from a small specific area in the brain, which isn’t becoming an obstacle for vital functions such as hearing, vision, speech, etc. In this procedure, the surgeon removes that part of the brain that is causing the seizures. However, if that specific part causing seizures control your vital movement, then the doctor may perform a different type of surgery where several cuts will be made in your brain to avoid seizures from spreading to different parts of the brain (Multiple Subpial Transection), and medications will be provided to prevent seizures.

  • Vagus nerve stimulation: This treatment involves inserting a y powered device called a vagus nerve stimulator into your chest that sends electrical signals to the brain, which can reduce the occurrence of seizures to a great extent.

  • Ketogenic diet: The diet that is high in fat and low in carbohydrates can reduce the seizures and make the person remain seizure free for years.

Complications

The use of drugs may provide some mild of serious complications to the patient, which needs to be notified to the doctor to avoid further issues. These complications are as follows:

  • Fatigue

  • Abnormal Weight gain

  • Loss of bone density

  • Dizziness

  • Memory issues

  • Speech problems

  • Skin rashes

  • Loss of coordination

  • Depression and suicidal thoughts

  • Inflammation

  • Throat pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Hoarse voice or coughing

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Constipation

  • Uric acid build up

Post operative care

The treatment of epilepsy continues for years where you will need to take your prescribed medications daily without any skipping. Even if you don’t suffer from any seizures for quite a long time, still do not stop taking medications.

Notify the doctor if you experience any new or abnormal complications from medications.

Never go anywhere alone and maintain the diet given by your doctor. Sleep well and enough and avoid driving or planning pregnancy.

Perform regular exercise to reduce stress and keep yourself healthy.