The Ins & Outs of Epilepsy

Epilepsy is known as the fourth most common neurological disorder. It can affect anyone, of any age and from any walk of life. This disorder is most commonly characterized by random seizures, which vary in type from person to person.

Many people may not fully realize that they even have Epilepsy. Knowledge is the best way to figure out if you may be dealing with this. Knowing the symptoms can allow someone to determine if they may be affected with epilepsy. Furthermore, understanding this disorder can be the best way to get it under control and take back your life.

Epilepsy Symptoms

The symptoms in one individual may be very different from another, depending on the type of epilepsy they may have. The following are some of the symptoms that may be indicative of epilepsy:

  • Seizure- a seizure may include some of the following characteristics:
    • Lack of movement or speech
    • Sudden confusion
    • Uncontrollable muscle movement or jerking
    • Loss of consciousness
  • Sudden falls or periods of clumsiness
  • Unusual sleepiness or irritability when woken from a seizure
  • Sudden anger or fear
  • Complaints that things look, taste or smell funny before a seizure spell (may be identified as an aura)

Epilepsy Types

There are many different types of epilepsy, causing this disorder to manifest itself differently in different people. The following factors can help define the difference in epilepsy from one individual to another:

  • The type or size of the seizure- how long it lasts, the types of symptoms it is characterized by
  • The age at which the seizures begin in the patient
  • The patterns apparent in an EEG (electroencephalogram) before and after the occurrence of the seizure
  • The part of the brain where the seizure occurs
  • The factors that provoke the seizure, such as different stimuli
  • Brain image findings on an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CT scan (computed tomography)

Seizure Types

  • Focal seizures- Seizure activity limited to one hemisphere of the brain. Consciousness can remain or be lost during this form of seizure.
  • Generalized seizures- This form of seizure occurs when there is widespread activity in the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This form of seizures includes:
    • Absence seizures
    • Clonic seizures
    • Tonic seizures
    • Tonic-clonic or convulsive seizures
    • Atonic seizures (also known by the name of “drop attacks”)

Epilepsy Treatment and Management

  1. Seizure medication- 7 out of 10 patients have reported relief from the severity and frequency of their seizures due to seizure medication. The type of medication prescribed to you will depend on your age, sex, the type of seizures you suffer from and any other medical conditions you may have.
  2. Ketogenic diet- This diet consists of low carbohydrates and high amounts of fats, and is usually tried when medication alone is not enough to aid in the appearance of seizures.
  3. Vagus nerve stimulation- The vagus nerve runs from the abdomen to the lower part of the brain and controls your body’s automatic functions. A vagus nerve stimulator is inserted under the skin of the chest, used to stimulate the vagus nerve through electrical impulses and stopping the occurrence of seizures.
  4. Resective surgery- This invasive treatment is completed by a surgeon removing the part of the brain where seizures tend to originate. This procedure is usually only done when the region of the brain is very small in size and does not affect speech, hearing or movement.
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