Epilepsy is a neurological disorder of the central nervous system in which nerve cell activity in the brain becomes disrupted, and causes seizures, periods of unusual behavior, or sensations. It may also sometimes cause loss of consciousness.
Symptoms of seizures vary widely. Some patients of epilepsy may simply stare blankly for a few seconds when they get a seizure, while others may repeatedly twitch their legs or arms.
A single episode of a seizure doesnot mean you have epilepsy. It takes at least two unprovoked seizures for an epilepsy diagnosis. Medical treatment may be required even for mild seizures, because they can prove dangerous during some activities such as swimming or driving. Medications, and in some cases, surgery can help control seizures in 80 percent of the patients with epilepsy. Some children also outgrow epilepsy with age.
Symptoms of Epilepsy
Repeated seizures are the main symptoms of epilepsy. There are certain symptoms which may indicate epilepsy. If the person experiences one or more of these symptoms, they should visit a doctor. Some symptoms are:
- A convulsion with no fever
- Intermittent spells of fainting, during which bladder or bowelcontrol is lost. This is usually followed by
- Short spells of blackout, or confusion
- The person may become unresponsive to questions or instructions for a short time
- The person suddenly falls for no clear reason
- The person suddenly becomes stiff for no obvious reason
- Sudden episodes of blinking or chewing without any obvious stimuli
- Repetitive movements that seem inappropriate
- The person becomes fearful, angry or panics for no apparent reason
- Changes in senses, such as touch, smell and sound
- The legs, arms, or body jerk
When to see a doctor
You should seek immediate medical assistance if any of the following symptoms occurs:
- The seizure lasts more than five minutes.
- A second seizure follows immediately.
- Consciousness or normal breathing does not return after the seizure stops.
- You are experiencing heat exhaustion.
- You have diabetes
- You have a high fever.
- You are pregnant.
- You have injured yourself during the seizure.
If you experience a seizure for the first time, visit a doctor immediately.
The treatment of epilepsy starts with medication. If medication does not treat the condition, doctors may suggest surgery or another type of treatment.
Most people who suffer from epilepsy can become seizure-free by taking anti-seizure medication known as anti-epileptic medication. Some others may require a combination of medications to decrease the intensity and frequency of epilepsy. Around 50 percent of the children who experience epilepsy like symptoms can eventually overcome them, discontinue medication, and live a seizure free life. Many adults too can stop medication after living a year or two without experiencing seizures.
If the medication does not provide desired results, the doctors may recommend therapy or surgery. However, surgery is mostly done when tests reveal that the seizures originate in a small and well-defined area of the brain that does not affect vital functions such as language, speech,motor function, hearing or vision. The surgery involves removal of area of the brain that is causing seizures.
Around 60 percent of the patients of epilepsy can eventually discontinue medication. However, they need to have been seizure-free for at least 2-4 years. Also, some forms of epilepsy are more easily treatable than others. So, the prognosis depends on what other conditions are accompanying seizures.
Almost 70-80 percent of epileptic patients can be effectively treated with anti-epileptic drugs. Rest of them may have to consider surgery to address the problem. Another therapy that shows good results is implantation of device called vagus nerve stimulator.
Since the cause of epilepsy is often unclear, it is usually not possible to prevent it. Head injury, which is a common cause of seizures, can be prevented.