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Epilepsy

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Electrical impulses in neurons in the brain as a result of epilepsy

Epilepsy is a well known disease, characterized by its outwardly visible symptom, seizures, that cause people lose sense of awareness, control, consciousness, and have violent spasms. What many people don't realize is that there is more than just one type of seizure. The two main classifications of seizures, generalized and focal, occur based on what parts of the brain are being affected. If the entire brain is involved, then it is a generalized seizure. If only a part of the brain is involved, then it is a focal seizure. The disease itself originates in the nerve cells of the brain. When the brain's normal pattern of neuronal activity is disrupted, the outcome is a seizure. Someone who has experienced two or more seizures in their lifetime is diagnosed as an epileptic person. There are several treatments for epilepsy: medication, surgery, therapy, and specific diets. Medication is the most frequently used treatment for helping to calm seizures and, in some cases, curing people of them.

Causes

Neuron activity in the human brain

Epilepsy is a disease rooted in the human brain that causes abnormal behavior. This behavior is the result of a disruption in the usual pattern of the neurons in the brain. Neurons are the main component in the nervous system and are responsible for transporting impulses and information from the brain to throughout the body.[1] When this pattern of neuronal activity is interrupted by a sudden overload of electrical impulses, the body reacts through involuntary spasms or contractions of the muscles and sometimes a loss of sense or consciousness. A term used to describe these unusual convulsions is seizures, the most apparent symptom of a person who is suffering from epilepsy. There is a wide variety of different factors that can cause epilepsy in a person. These may include genetic disorders, injuries or trauma to the head, or illnesses. In a majority of the cases, however, the cause of epilepsy is unknown to the victim, since there are hundreds of different variations of the disease itself. Some of these variations affect children from the time of birth, most likely passed down through gene defects. Other variations may develop in people over time.[2]

Seizures

Patient with epilepsy in the hospital

There are several symptoms that people with epilepsy suffer from. The most well known and visible of these symptoms are recurring seizures. People are not considered to be diagnosed with epilepsy until they have had more than a two seizures. If somebody has experienced just a single seizure in their lifetime, they do not fall under the category of someone who is epileptic. Seizures are characterized by the temporary convulsing or twitching of muscles, loss of consciousness or sensibility, confusion, or unawareness of surroundings. There are different types and levels of seizures, and they can vary depending on the person. Some last for only a few seconds while others may last for as long as a few minutes. The symptoms of a seizure will differ based on what type it is. The two primary categories that seizures fall under are focal seizures and generalized seizures.[3]

Focal(partial) Seizures

Focal seizures are the most common types of seizures to occur in people who have epilepsy. They impact or take place in only one section of the brain. Within this category of seizures are two main types known as simple focal seizures and complex focal seizures. Simple focal seizures do not cause a person to lose consciousness and usually last no more than two minutes. However, the person may feel abnormal sensations and emotions. They may also experience sensory hallucinations and have trouble speaking or hearing clearly. Complex focal seizures impact and sometimes cause a loss of consciousness or awareness. Complex focal seizures usually last no more than one minute. People who experience these types of seizures often become disoriented or confused and are inclined to perform automatisms (repetitive, purposeless behaviors), such as walking around in circles. Complex focal seizures also can sometimes be foreseen by the person experiencing them through auras (strange impressions that predict a coming seizure).[4]

Generalized Seizures

Unlike focal seizures, generalized seizures impact nerve cells in both sides of the brain, rather than just one side or area. There are many variations of generalized seizures. Some of these include clonic, tonic, and tonic-clonic. Clonic seizures are characterized by quick spasms and jerking motions in the muscles, usually around the neck or arm area. These types of seizures are uncommon and can last up to several minutes. Tonic seizures are similar to clonic seizures in that they also affect the muscles, however they do not cause spasms. Instead, tonic seizures result in the muscles tensing up. They do not cause unconsciousness but will cause a person to lose their balance. These types of seizures last no longer than twenty seconds. Tonic-clonic seizures are the most noticeable and possibly the most dangerous of all seizures, lasting about one to three minutes. These seizures begin with the tonic stage, in which a person's muscles will tighten and they will collapse to the ground. The second stage is the clonic phase. In this stage the persons body will writhe and jerk involuntarily. In some cases foam will form in the mouth and the person may turn a blueish color. Injury can occur from this type of seizure because of the violent movements propelling the body to forcefully collide with other objects.[5]

Treatment

Anti-seizure medication for epilepsy

Though there are many different kinds of treatments, the primary treatment for epilepsy, that is often turned to or prescribed by doctors, is medication. Medication is the first option for most people because it is the least drastic of measures and usually produces sufficient results. This form of treatment works by altering the pattern in which brain cells send each other signals. The type of medication that a person is prescribed differs based on several factors: age, gender, additional health conditions, and what variations of seizures the person is most often prone towards. In many cases, medication relieves some of the extremity of seizures and can sometimes even rid the person of seizures altogether. However, regardless of how effective medication might be for some people, it does not always work for everyone. In this case there are other forms of treatment for epilepsy.[6]

Another method used for treatment is surgery. The two predominate types of surgeries are resective surgery and disconnective surgery. In resective surgery, if the section of the brain that is causing the seizures is small and insignificant to the rest of the body, it will be extracted completely. In disconnective surgery, cuts are made in the brain to separate the paths between nerves that are causing seizures.[7] There are other ways to treat epilepsy, including therapies, a ketogenic diet, and vagal nerve stimulation. These methods are less common than medication and surgery, but still have positive results in some people.[8]

Video

How to prevent injury in the case of an epileptic seizure.

Neurological Disorders

References

  1. Cherry, Kendra. Nervous System How neurons transmit information throughout the body Verywell. Web. Last-modified June 12, 2017.
  2. Cunha, John. Epilepsy (Seizure Disorder) MedicineNet. Web. Last-modified March 10, 2011.
  3. Signs and Effects of Epilepsy HealthLine. Web. Last-Modified June 7, 2016. Unknown Author.
  4. Types of Seizures Centers For Disease Control. Web. Last-Modified April 10, 2017. Unknown Author.
  5. Types of Seizures and Their Symptoms WebMD. Web. Accessed October 22, 2017. Unknown Author.
  6. Epilepsy Mayo Clinic. Web. Published August 12, 2017. Unknown author.
  7. What Are the Treatments for Epilepsy? WebMD. Web. Accessed October 22, 2017. Unknown Author.
  8. Tidy, Colin.Treatments for Epilepsy Patient. Web. Last-modified June 5, 2015.