By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 01 November 2022 & Updated on - 04 November 2022
Symptoms: Loss of awareness or consciousness, stiff muscles, state of temporary confusion, involuntary jerking movements in the arms and legs, loss of bladder control, respiratory problems, uncontrollable staring
Causes: Chemical or metabolic imbalances, birth trauma, infection, substance abuse, genetics, drug withdrawals, brain tumour, certain medications
Risk factors: Dementia, ageing, head injuries, vascular diseases, meningitis and other brain infections, family history of epilepsy.
Severity: Mild to high (depending on the type of epilepsy)
Which doctor to consult: Neurologist
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that is responsible for causing recurrent seizures. These unprovoked seizures can occur at any time and place. In epilepsy, the patient’s brain activity fluctuates, causing extended periods of loss of awareness, sensations and unusual behaviour.
The seizures occur due to abnormal electrical discharges in a particular group of brain cells and this showcases different symptoms in each individual. For instance, some patients stare blankly at one specific spot during a seizure. Others may have involuntary and severe jerking of arms and legs while the episode lasts.
However, the presence of seizures does not indicate epilepsy. Seizures can be caused due to a variety of reasons like irregular sodium levels in the blood, brain injury during childbirth or electric shocks. For an epilepsy diagnosis, patients must have at least two unprovoked seizures in a span of 24 hours.
Although epilepsy is life-threatening in some instances, it can be combated with medication and surgery. These can help moderate seizures and reduce their frequency. Some patients might also require lifelong medication to control the condition. For others, epilepsy can go away with age.
If left untreated, epilepsy can result in bodily injuries, social disability and psychiatric impairment. It can also lead to irreversible brain damage. Hence, it is vital to consult a neurologist in the following cases:
The following treatments have proved to be effective in controlling epileptic seizures.
The risks and complications of untreated epilepsy are provided below.
Aspiration pneumonia: Epileptic seizures can sometimes lead to inhaling food and liquid through the windpipe. This results in aspiration pneumonia, which leads to excessive chest pain, breath odour, excessive sweating and coughing up phlegm filled with blood. Left unchecked, it can cause respiratory failure and widespread infection in the body, resulting in death.
Constant injuries: Depending on the type of seizures and frequency, patients can sustain various injuries in their immediate environment. However, most of these are non-fatal injuries like burns, soft-tissue injuries and minor fractures.
Birth defects: For pregnant women, epilepsy is a significant cause of concern since it can contribute to congenital problems in the child. Hence, doctors can chart out a plan for expecting mothers and advise them against taking certain anti-epileptic medicines that can cause complications for the child.
Different forms of epilepsy
The common symptoms of all forms of epilepsy are the onset of seizures. However, the intensity of attacks can help doctors determine the type of epilepsy. There are two primary types of seizures that occur in epilepsy.
Motor seizures impact the entire body leading to episodes that cannot be manually controlled. Usually, patients lose consciousness, and their muscles stiffen during these seizures. Non-motor seizures do not cause any noticeable physical symptoms. In fact, patients may perform a single activity for a long time, like staring blankly into space.
Epileptic seizures can be divided into two types based on the origin of the stroke.
1. Generalised: The most common type of epilepsy, generalised, begins on both sides of the brain. As it progresses, it impacts the brain networks on both sides. Generalised epilepsy is further divided into specific types based on affected body parts. These are:
2. Partial seizures: These are also called focal seizures and begin from a single part of the brain. However, these can transform into generalised seizures and spread over multiple groups of brain cells
Partial epilepsy is further divided into:
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Is epilepsy a serious illness?
The intensity of epilepsy depends on the type and age group affected. Usually, epilepsy is associated with a mild to a high level of risk. Hence, it is vital to consult a neurologist as soon as an individual display symptoms like the involuntary movement of muscles and sudden changes in bodily response.
Can epilepsy be cured?
Yes! Patients who have epilepsy are usually provided with medication to control the episodes and live healthier lives. If the medicine does not work, multiple surgical methods and home remedies ensure that the seizures can be controlled.
What are the warning signs of epilepsy?
The primary warning sign of epilepsy is the occurrence of seizures. Although seizures can occur for multiple reasons, it is essential to consult a neurologist to determine the exact cause. Here are other symptoms that might point to early warning signs of epilepsy. Stiff muscles Periodic loss of awareness or consciousness Constant staring Temporary confusion Involuntary muscle movements