Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder that causes abnormal brain activities which results in the development of seizures, loss of awareness and at times unusual behaviour. Although seizures are more commonly observed in children and the older population, they can develop at any age during a person’s lifetime. The neurology department at Fortis Hospital Kalyan has successfully managed multiple cases of epilepsy across all age groups. Seizures occur when there is a surge of abnormal electrical signals in the brain that interrupts the regular and normal signals. Any kind of interruption between the nerve cells in the brain can result in the development of a seizure.
Reported cases of epilepsy usually have a genetic cause and the rest are due to unknown causes. Epilepsy is usually diagnosed after an episode of seizure has occurred in the individual. It is usually caused due to some injury to the brain but in a majority of the cases, the cause is unknown. Other important causes of epilepsy can be attributed to low oxygen during birth, brain tumours, infections like meningitis, developmental disorders or injury before birth or nutritional deficiencies in the mother.
Certain known factors can provoke seizures in people suffering from epilepsy. Triggers such as missed medication doses, uncontrolled use of alcohol, illegal drugs, insomnia or lack of sleep, certain drugs that could interfere with seizure medications.
There are 2 types of seizures that can be classified as focal seizures and generalized seizures.
These types of seizures are restricted to only one side of the brain and can cause an individual to lose consciousness or stay alert during the attack. The focal seizures that occur without loss of consciousness only change emotions or can at times alter the sense of smell, sight or even taste. There could also be the subconscious jerking of a limb and a sense of dizziness at times. The seizures that occur with loss of consciousness usually cause an unawareness of the surroundings in the individual which can make them walk around in circles, stare into space or other such abrupt unintentional movements.
Generalized seizures involve all the regions of the brain and can be usually classified into six types. Absence seizures occur mostly in children and usually involves minor movements such as blinking of the eyes. Tonic seizures are stiffening of the muscles in the upper and lower limbs and can even result in the individual falling. Atonic seizures cause loss of muscle control and the individual collapses on the floor. Clonic seizures cause repetitive jerking movements in the upper limbs and the facial region. Myoclonic seizures cause short jerking movements in the upper and lower limbs. Lastly, tonic-clonic seizures which were previously known as grand-mal seizures cause the person to lose consciousness, stiffening of the full body and could also cause biting of the tongue or loss of bladder control during a seizure.
An individual who experiences his first-ever seizure in their adult life requires a comprehensive workup. Focusing on the cause of the seizure is the first step which is usually done if a person is taken to the hospital with the first seizure. Underlying health conditions are evaluated and referral to a neurologist is usually recommended. Structural changes in the brain that are caused due to a stroke, tumour or any other kind of brain injury are some of the most commonly noticed causes of new seizures in adults. An MRI scan must be done for every individual who starts experiencing seizures in their adult life. This diagnostic test can isolate tumours or infections and can also be suggestive of the starting points of the seizures or highlight other existing neurological problems.
The best approach in the treatment of epilepsy is to determine the underlying cause and to evaluate how it affects brain function. Some cases during childhood resolve as the individual progress into adulthood and it is nearly impossible to say whether seizures are gone for good. Recurring seizures which last for several years can be well controlled with medication. Around 69% of people with epilepsy can control their seizures effectively with either medication or surgery. Taking the recommended dosage is as described by your neurologist is the key to living seizure-free for as long as possible.