Epilepsy is a brain condition that comes with recurrent seizures. Anybody can experience a seizure at some point in their life, but that may not mean they're epileptic. Normally, epilepsy is only diagnosed if a medical practitioner, like Amor Mehta, MD, confirms there's a likelihood of having more seizures. The illness can begin at any age, but the diagnosis frequently happens in early childhood years or after the age of 65.
What is an Epileptic Seizure?
Electrical activity happens in your brain constantly as the brain cells transmit messages to one another. An electrical seizure occurs when the brain experiences a sudden outpouring of acute electrical activity. That results in a temporary interruption in normal brain functioning, which mixes up messages in the brain and causes an epileptic seizure.
What happens to you during an epileptic seizure depends on the exact part of the brain that's affected and the extent of the seizure activity. During some seizures, you may stay alert and aware of your surroundings, but other times you may lose awareness. You may experience queer sensations, feelings or emotions, or you may become stiff, fall down and quiver.
The Main Causes of Epilepsy
The following are some of the potential causes of epilepsy:
- A tumor in the brain
- Head trauma from a car accident, fall, sports activity or violent occurrences
- Infectious illnesses, like viral encephalitis
- Problems with fetal brain development in the womb, or prenatal injury
- Autism, neurofibromatosis, or other developmental conditions
- Genetic factors
- Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
However, doctors cannot pinpoint the exact cause in 6 out of 10 epilepsy patients. It's believed that approximately 500 genes play a role in who does or doesn't incur epilepsy. That might explain why some individuals develop epileptic seizures with no clear reason. Coming from a family with genetically linked epilepsy increases the risk of developing the condition by 2-5%.
Triggers of Epileptic Seizures
While the underlying cause of epilepsy may not be easy to determine, certain variables are known to trigger epileptic seizures. If you suffer from epilepsy, minimizing such triggers can help to prevent seizures and improve your quality of life. The following are some of the factors that can provoke seizures in patients with epilepsy:
- Skipping medications
- Heavy alcohol intake
- Using cocaine, ecstasy or other hard drugs
- Lack of enough sleep
- Taking other drugs that disrupt the effectiveness of seizure medicines
Additionally, for a small percentage of women with epilepsy, the seizures happen more frequently during menstruation. Changing or incorporating particular medications before menses may help.
Does Epilepsy Have A Cure?
No, epilepsy doesn't have a cure, but prompt treatment may make a huge difference. Seizures that are left untreated may damage the brain, or cause sudden unexplained death. So, if you experience an epileptic seizure, you should seek medical attention straight away.
Epilepsy can be effectively managed through proper medical treatments. For starters, seizures are usually controlled through prescription medication. Moreover, brain surgery may be used to reduce or completely eradicate epileptic seizures.
When the part of the brain causing seizures is too critical or large to eliminate, the surgeon may conduct a disconnection instead. That involves making several cuts in the brain to interrupt a nerve pathway. That procedure prevents the spread of seizures to other areas in the brain.
Epilepsy can also be controlled through diet therapy, neuromodulation therapy, and medical cannabis.