Categories: Neurology

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a group of brain disorders characterized by recurrent seizures that affect nearly 0.5 to 1% of the world’s population. Epilepsy results from a burst of abnormal electric discharges from a group of neurons in the brain. Seizures are episodes that can vary from brief and sometimes undetectable to significantly long periods of vigorous shaking. Many a times, these seizures may not be associated with Loss of consciousness or shaking or abnormal movements. This may result in misdiagnosis or underdiagnosis of this mostly treatable disorder.

What are the Causes of Epilepsy?

Epilepsy can have both a genetic and acquired basis, with a combination of these factors in some cases. The well-established causes include serious Brain Injury , brain tumor , birth injury, bleeding in the brain, stroke, and complications due to the previous infection in the brain. Some cases of Epilepsy are inherited. However, in approximately 50% of people with Epilepsy, even after a thorough investigation a cause cannot be detected.

At what age does Epilepsy occur?

Epilepsy can begin at any age. It can occur just after birth or can manifest for the first time in old age. In fact, the extreme of age are more likely to develop Epilepsy.

What are the myths and facts about Epilepsy?

Myth: Epilepsy is a form of spiritual possession.

Fact: No, it is purely a brain disorder.

Myth: Epilepsy is contagious.

Fact: No, it cannot be acquired by coming into contact with someone who has Epilepsy or seizures.

Myth: Epilepsy affects intelligence.

Fact: Epilepsy typically does not cause lower intelligence. In fact, some very talented and renowned people have Epilepsy including Isaac Newton, Van Gogh, Beethoven, Napoleon, Jonty Rhodes.

Myth: People with Epilepsy can’t work, excel at school, have children or lead normal lives.

Fact: It’s absolutely wrong. Epilepsy is a medical condition that can be managed to a great extent in most cases and therefore people with Epilepsy can often enjoy normal lives.

What is the best diagnostic test for Epilepsy?

There is no accurate blood test for a definite diagnosis of Epilepsy. In order to answer this question, you will probably need to see a Neurologist who will take a detailed history from you and perform a thorough examination of your nervous system. You may have to undergo EEG (Brain wave test) and Imaging of the brain (CT scan or MRI).

What should be done during an Epileptic attack?

Do’s

  • Keep Calm
  • Loosen any tight clothes. For example, necktie, tight collar. Remove spectacles.
  • Prevent the patient from injuring himself by removing sharp objects from around the patient.
  • Turn the patient to one side to allow saliva to drool out else it may choke the patient’s windpipe.

Dont’s

  • Don’t insert a spoon or any such article into the mouth.
  • Don’t try to restrict convulsive movements as it may cause blood test .
  • Don’t crowd around the patient.
  • Don’t try to give water or any other liquid until the patient is fully conscious.

How Epilepsy is treated?

Majority of the seizures are controlled by medication, particularly anticonvulsant drugs. The type of medication depends on several factors such as frequency, severity, type of the seizures, the patient’s age, overall health status, other comorbidity, and presence of pregnancy in the case of women of reproductive age.

What is the role of surgery in the treatment of Epilepsy?

Only a small number of patients will require surgery to control seizures. However, there are certain types of Epilepsies that cannot be controlled by appropriate Epileptic drugs. The patients are ideal candidates for surgical intervention and they usually do well following surgery.

Points to be remembered: Epilepsy is mostly a treatable medical condition. Therefore, if you are diagnosed with it, you should never get disheartened. Instead, you should contact a Neurologist or competent physician trained in managing Epilepsy patients. With proper treatment and pursuing a healthy lifestyle, you can lead a normal life like any other healthy person.

Dr. H. P. Sinha, MD, DM, Consultant Neurology, MMI Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Raipur

Narayana Health

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