Most people don’t know much about epilepsy even though it is a very common condition. According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 65 million people with epilepsy all over the world. This might be a conservative estimate because many cases go undiagnosed or unreported. It can happen to almost anyone, especially if they have a genetic predisposition for it. That’s why it is important to educate yourself on this disease. This article lists 12 facts about epilepsy that you might not know.
It is a Neurological Disorder
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that happens because of faulty electrical activity inside the brain. When the communication within the brain is disrupted, the patient’s body experiences extreme stress. This causes repeated seizures because the brain is sending mixed signals to the body.
A simple action of standing can become difficult for people in the middle of a seizure.
As this disorder affects the electrical activity inside the brain, it influences both physical actions and behavior. The brain’s chemical structure can become altered after repeated seizures.
There are Three Possible Diagnosis
One of the first things doctors do after stabilizing the patient is determining the true cause of the of the seizures. The doctor can give one of three diagnoses and they are:
Idiopathic – When doctors conduct all of their testing and determine there’s no apparent cause of epilepsy, they diagnose the problem as idiopathic.
Cryptogenic – If the doctor has determined there’s a cause for epilepsy but they don’t know what it is, the problem is considered cryptogenic.
Symptomatic – If the doctor is able to determine the true cause of the problem, it is considered symptomatic
Doctors will provide assistance based on this diagnosis. If they know the underlying cause of the problem, they can treat it and reduce the severity of the seizures if possible.
Patients can Experience Partial Seizures
Doctors also diagnose patients based on where the seizure starts and exists in the brain. Partial seizures happen in only one part of the patient’s brain. There are two types of this epilepsy and they are:
Simple Partial Seizure – This is the mildest form of the seizure. The patient is usually wake and might even be aware of their surroundings in the middle of the episode.
Complex Partial Seizure – During this seizure, the patient isn’t aware and often loses consciousness. They might not remember what happened and if they have any memory of their blackout, it is vague and distorted.
Partial seizures can be just as troubling as generalized seizures. They can affect the quality of life and can eventually cause brain damage.
Electrical Activity in Both Sides of the Brain Causes Generalized Seizures
This seizure happens on both sides of the brain and is more intense. Patients are never conscious during these episodes. There are different types of generalized seizures and they include:
Tonic-Clonic Seizures – This is what most people imagine when they think about seizures. The patient loses consciousness before their body starts shaking and becomes stiff.
Absence Seizures – While the patient does lose consciousness during this seizure, they appear to be staring blankly at a distance. This seizure is easier to treat because patients respond well.
Clonic Seizures – A patient experiences spasms and jerky, rhythmic movements during this seizure.
Tonic Seizures – The patient’s muscles suddenly become stiff and locked in place. A patient can’t really move and might fall because of epileptic activity.
Atonic Seizures – Atonic is the exact opposite of Tonic seizures. When the patient is experiencing an atonic seizure, their muscles relax abruptly instead of tensing up. This can also cause them to fall because their legs are like jelly.
Different types of seizures have different treatments and their impact on the patient’s body differs as well. That’s one of the reasons why doctors always conduct thorough testing to understand what kind of seizure it is before starting on a treatment.
The Seizure Can Start On One Side of the Brain and Travel to Another
These are known as secondary generalized seizures. They start on one side of the brain like partial seizures before they spread throughout the brain.
This means the epileptic activity in the brain grows in intensity during the seizure. This problem requires a different type of treatment plan.
Seizures Don’t Look Like The Attacks Shown on Television
Looking at the different types and severities of seizures, you might have already deduced that not all epileptic episodes look the same. Tonic-clonic seizures are the most recognizable but it is important to keep the difference in mind.
Some seizures don’t look at seizures at all. This can cause problems because people around the patient might not be able to recognize the signs and alert the emergency services accordingly.
You can Prevent Epilepsy in Some Cases
Epilepsie can be prevented in some cases with diligent care and proper medical treatment. This problem is often caused by traumatic brain injuries, pregnancy, stroke, and infections like cysticercosis.
It is important to get prompt treatment and follow all doctor’s instructions to ensure the complications don’t trigger epilepsy.
Seizures Can Cause Brain Damage
Some studies have shown persistent seizures can cause brain damage. However, experts in the field believe there’s not enough conclusive data to state this definitively.
There is evidence that patients with severe and frequent seizures experience some decline in cognitive performance. They have also observed that longer period between episodes helps reduce the impact. Studies show people with general symptomatic seizure are more likely to experience complications.
Providing Aid to A Seizure Patient is Easy
It’s not uncommon to panic when someone you know has a seizure. People don’t know what they need to do and how they can help.
The best way to handle this is to keep an eye on the patient, let the seizure run its course, and call emergency medical services immediately.
There’s no need to move or restrain the patient. Just keep them safe and ensure they’re away from things that might injure them.
For example, if a patient collapses in the middle of a train station, make sure they’re away from foot traffic and nowhere near the tracks. This initial response ensures the situation doesn’t become more complicated.
People Suffering From Epilepsy Have a Higher Chance of Premature Death
Unfortunately, patients do have a higher chance of dying prematurely if they have epilepsy. According to research conducted in the UK, they’re 11 times more vulnerable.
A healthy lifestyle and proper adherence to the doctor’s treatment can help you avoid the problem.
Patients with prior mental health issues are more likely to die prematurely. The cause of death in many is suicide. Accidents and assaults due to misunderstandings are also a common cause for fatalities among epileptic patients.
Epilepsy Affects Other Aspects of Life
Patients with epilepsy experience a drastic change in their personal and professional lives. Seizures do cause some brain damage and that can lead to changes in behavior, personality, emotions, social interaction, social development in children, and the ability to work.
It’s a good idea for patients to seek counseling from an experienced professional in this field. That will help ensure they can adapt to the new lifestyle without too much stress.
Counseling also helps patients to deal with the emotional toll of this illness. They’re less likely to develop depression if they have good support.
People with Epilepsie Can Lead A Good Life
Epilepsy is chronic and the seizures can come without warning at any point in time. This can seriously influence a patient’s quality of life.
Fortunately, this is manageable. People with epilepsy can work, go to school, get into positions of authority, and have a flourishing career.
It is all a matter of taking medication diligently and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, patients with uncontrolled seizures must give up high-risk activities like driving.
If you suffer from epilepsy or have someone in your family who does, it is a good idea to consult with an expert in the field. They will explain everything you need to know about epilepsie and answer any questions you might have regarding the problem.