Epilepsy is a type of brain disease that causes recurrent seizures; erroneous signal transmission of nerve cells or neuron clusters in the brain leads to seizures. Patients may have odd sensations or act strange. Epilepsy can cause severe muscle spasms or loss of consciousness. Certain diseases, brain damage and abnormal brain development can lead to epilepsy. Most of the time, however, root cause is unknown. It is crucial to start treatment immediately. Currently there is no treatment that fully cures epilepsy, colloquially known as ‘falling sickness’, however, drugs control the seizures for most patients. If drugs are ineffective, surgery or implanted devices like vagus nerve stimulator can be helpful. Some children can also benefit from special diets.
Table of Contents
Clinical presentation involving loss of consciousness, various disorders related to movement, sensation, autonomic and psyche due to periodic and excessive electrical discharge of cerebral cortical or subcortical neurons is called seizure. Recurrent seizures that have become chronic are called epilepsy. Epilepsy is a chronic disease characterized by recurrent, undetermined seizures.
A person is diagnosed by epilepsy in presence of two unconscious seizures that are not related to certain medical conditions involving alcohol consumption or high blood sugar.
The cause of epilepsy cannot be determined for 60% of the patients. Many factors can cause seizure. Possible causes are:
Genetics are effective in some types of epilepsy. In the general population, there is a 1% chance of epilepsy development before the age of twenty. Epilepsy is associated with genetics and the risk increases by 2-5%.Genetics may lead people to be more sensitive against environmental triggers. Epilepsy can develop at any age. Diagnosis is generally made in early childhood or after 60 years of age.
Tonic seizures cause muscle rigidity. Atonic seizures cause loss of muscle control and lead to sudden falls. Clonic seizures are characterized by jolting and recurrent muscle movements in the face, necks and arms. Myoclonic seizures cause spontaneous fast twitches in the arms and legs.
Symptoms of tonic-clonic seizures are:
If there is a suspected seizure, a doctor must be consulted as soon as possible. A seizure can be a symptom of a serious medical problem. Doctor will consider both medical history and symptoms to decide the most helpful tests.
Generally, epilepsy can be diagnosed easily if the seizures are caused by apparent or reversible reasons.
Seizures generally do not require emergency medical assistance. As complications occurring during the seizures will require emergency medical intervention, immediately referring to a healthcare center is a necessity. These conditions include:
There are many types of seizure. Many seizures stop within a few minutes. Person must remain completely conscious (alert) until the seizure stops. After the seizure is stopped, the person must be seated in a safe place, and told about what had happened in simple terms if they are responsive and open to communication.
Other ways to assist:
Seizures are generally classified in two main groups: Generalized seizures and focal seizures. The difference between seizure types is related to the location in the brain and the way of onset.
It is crucial to start treatment as soon as possible after epilepsy diagnosis. Seizures can be controlled after diagnosis with modern drugs and surgical treatments in approximately 70% of the patients. Some drugs are more effective for certain types of seizures.
It is important to start treatment as soon as possible after the diagnosis of epilepsy. Epilepsy can be controlled by approximately 70% of patients after diagnosis, with modern medications and surgery. There are many types of drugs that can be used for epilepsy, and these are successful in most patients.
These drugs reduce the number of seizures and remove seizure incidents. Drugs must be used exactly as prescribed for maximum efficacy.
If seizures are not reduced with medication, surgery is another option. The most common surgery is resection. Surgery involves the removal of the brain part that initiates seizures. Most of the time temporal lobe is removed with a procedure called temporal lobectomy. Surgical method can cease seizure activity in most of the cases.
In some cases, patients remain awake during the surgery. The reason is to allow doctors to talk to the patient to avoid removing a part of the brain that control important functions like vision, hearing or movement. If the part of the brain to be removed is not as large or significant, there is another procedure called multiple subpial transection or disconnection.
Some patients can stop using antiseptic medication after the surgery. Although partial, there are risks involved in surgery, such as anesthesia, bleeding and a bad reaction against infection. Sometimes the brain surgery can result in some cognitive changes.
This device is surgically implanted under the skin over the chest and electrically stimulates the nerve passing through the neck. This may help to prevent seizures.
Ketogenic diet is frequently recommended for epileptic children. This diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fats. The diet puts the body in a process called ketosis and forces it to use fats instead of glucose for energy production. It requires a strict balance between fat, carbohydrate and protein.
Therefore, it is best to consult a nutritionist or work with a dietitian. Children using this diet must be carefully monitored by a doctor. Ketogenic diet is not beneficial for everybody.
However, it is generally successful at reducing the seizure frequency when properly followed. A modified Atkins diet can be recommended for epileptic adolescents and adults. This diet involves high fat and controlled carbohydrate intake. Almost half of adults trying a modified Atkins diet experience fewer seizures. Results can be in a matter of months. As these diets are low in fiber and high in fat, constipation is a common side effect.
You should consult your doctor first before deciding on a herbal treatment for epilepsy. Remember, while some herbs can have healing effects, the opposite is also a possibility. There are medicinal plants that can be used against epilepsy. These plants include:
Being used for centuries, mistel is one of the best medication for epilepsy. Today, some doctors also accept the medicinal value of this plant and recommend it for chronic cramps and hysteria attacks.
Preparation and use: Keep half spoon of finely minced leaf and stem (its fruit is not used as its toxic) in a glass of cold water over night, slightly heat in the morning and drink slowly throughout the day before meal.
St. john’s wort, olymus arenarius, teltaria auiacea, platanus orientalis and vinegar and honey mixture are among medicinal herbs that are good for epilepsy.
Sudden deaths due to unknown cause in epilepsy patients increased by 20 times compared to normal population. In addition, the wrong interventions or injuries during the seizures also cause death.
References:1- Everything You Need to Know About Epilepsy, 2- All about Epilepsy, 3- Epilepsy Information Page, 4- What is Epilepsy?, 5- Epilepsy