Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

When people hear the word seizure, they usually imagine someone who has collapsed and is in the throes of painful convulsions. And while it's true that some will experience these types of symptoms, it's not always the case.

There are, in fact, a lot of misconceptions people have about seizures, including what causes them and what you can do if someone experiences one. Here are five simple facts that may help explain not only what seizures are but what they are not:

Seizures Are Not Contagious

A seizure can be a very frightening experience, so much so that people's natural reaction is to move away. In some cases, it may be because a person fears that seizures are somehow contagious. As odd as this may seem, a survey conducted by the Epilepsy Foundation in 2001 revealed that, among 19,000 people interviewed, around half of those under 18 remained uncertain as to whether you could actually "catch" epilepsy.

The bottom line is that: seizures are not contagious, and you cannot "catch" or "spread" epilepsy by coming into contact who has had one.

You Can Have a Seizure at Any Age

Seizures can occur from infancy right through to the later years of life. Babies are especially vulnerable to seizures when faced with otherwise uncomplicated abnormalities such as a fever (pyrexia) or drinking too much water (that latter of which flushes too much sodium from the body and disrupts brain activity).

On the flip side, seizures remain a common feature of aging-related neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. Among older adults who have had a stroke, around 10 percent with a hemorrhagic stroke (a brain bleed) and eight percent with an ischemic stroke (involving a blocked blood vessel) will experience one or more seizures. All told, around one of every 20 persons living to the age of 80 will have a seizure.

Anyone Can Have a Seizure

There are some who believe that seizures and epilepsy are one and the same thing. A seizure, by definition, is a transient event caused by excessive or non-synchronous brain activity. Epilepsy, by contrast, is a medical condition characterized by the recurrence of seizures. As such, a seizure is a symptom of the disease epilepsy.

Seizures are also the symptom of many other conditions that can strike non-epileptics, including:

There Are Different Types of Seizures

A seizure is sometimes traumatically apparent. At other times, it may be barely noticed. A classic tonic-clonic seizure is the type most of us recognize from TV where a person will experience the jerking and stiffening of the entire body. By contrast, an absence seizure may cause a person to suddenly "blank out" for a moment before return to full consciousness. There is even a type called an atonic seizure where a body part will suddenly go limp or the head will suddenly drop for several seconds.

You Can Have More Than One Type of Seizure

Broadly speaking, there are three categories of seizure that a person can experience:

While an epileptic may experience only one type of seizure, it is possible to be affected by several. In such case, an individual may require different forms of treatment to control the different types of seizures.

You May Not Need to Take Medication for Your Seizures

While treatment is common for people coping with epilepsy, those experiencing incidental seizures usually don't need treatment. Instead, doctors will more often treat the underlying cause whether it be a fever, an imbalance of electrolytes or blood sugar, or a drug-related event.

On the other hand, persons with a serious neurological disorder will often require antiepileptic drugs to control recurrent seizures. This is especially true for people with brain cancer, 60 percent of whom will experience a seizure as a result of a malignancy or neurosurgery.

Treatment Is Widely Varied for Seizures

There is not one drug used to control seizures. Antiepileptics are a diverse group of medications that have different mechanisms of action. The drugs are prescribed based on the types of seizures you are experiencing, including:

There are more than 25 anti-epileptic drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of seizures. Research suggests that 70 percent of people with epilepsy could have their seizures completely controlled with the use of these medications.

Sleep Disorders

According to the most recent edition of the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, there are approximately 81 distinct sleep disorders. However, only a few are seen on a daily basis in sleep centers.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, sleep disorders are major disturbances of normal sleep patterns that lead to distress and disrupt functioning during the day. Not only are sleep disorders extremely common, affecting virtually everyone at some point in their lives, but they can also lead to serious stress and other health consequences

According to a major survey by the National Sleep Foundation, more than half of Americans reported experiencing at least one symptoms of insomnia several times a week during the previous year.

Sleep Disorders Effect Your Mental and Physical Health: Body Systems include Cardiovascular, Neuromuscular, Endocrine, and Reproductive are all affected, just to name a few. Also affects weight, immune system/function, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and wellbeing.

Sleep problems, including snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep deprivation, and restless legs syndrome, are common. Good sleep is necessary for optimal health and can affect hormone levels, mood and weight.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that measures and records the electrical activity of your brain. Special sensors (electrodes ) are attached to your head and hooked by wires to a computer. The computer records your brain's electrical activity on the screen or on paper as wavy lines. Certain conditions, such as seizures, can be seen by the changes in the normal pattern of the brain's electrical activity.

An electroencephalogram (EEG) may be done to:

  • Diagnose epilepsy and see what type of seizures are occurring. EEG is the most useful and important test in confirming a diagnosis of epilepsy.
  • Check for problems with loss of consciousness or dementia.
  • Help find out a person's chance of recovery after a change in consciousness.
  • Find out if a person who is in a coma is brain-dead.
  • Study sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy.
  • Watch brain activity while a person is receiving general anesthesia during brain surgery.
  • Help find out if a person has a physical problem (problems in the brain, spinal cord, or nervous system) or a mental health problem.