What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a chronic central nervous system (neurological) disorder due to abnormal activity in the brain, causing seizures or episodes of unusual behavior, sensations, and loss of consciousness. Anyone can develop epilepsy, both men and women at any age.
A person is diagnosed with epilepsy if he or she has had two unprovoked seizures. Symptoms of seizures can vary greatly from person to person. A neurologist will determine what type of epilepsy you have.
There are several treatment options, such as taking medications, therapy, and surgery. Some people may require lifelong treatment to control seizures, but for others, the seizures eventually go away. This is common in children with epilepsy as they may outgrow the condition with age.
Causes of Epilepsy
The exact cause of Epilepsy is unclear. Your doctor will need to examine your condition. The condition may be traced to various factors, including:
- Developmental disorders, such as autism and neurofibromatosis.
- Head trauma from an accident or other traumatic injury.
- Infectious diseases, such as meningitis, AIDS, and viral encephalitis.
- Some types of epilepsy are most likely affected by genetic conditions that run in families
- Brain conditions that cause damage to the brain such as a brain tumor or stroke. Stroke is the main cause of epilepsy in adults older than 35 years.
- Prenatal injury. Babies are more prone to brain damage. This can be caused by infection in the mother, poor nutrition, or oxygen deficiencies. This brain damage can result in epilepsy or cerebral palsy.
When to See a Doctor for Epilepsy
Your doctor will diagnose your condition based on your symptoms and medical history. Your doctor may also perform several tests to diagnose epilepsy and identify the cause of your seizures. Possible tests may include:
- Neurological exams
Your doctor will assess your behavior, motor skills, mental abilities, and other areas to diagnose and determine the type of epilepsy you have.
- Blood Tests
Your doctor will take your blood sample for analysis. This analysis will reveal signs of infection, genetic conditions, or other conditions related to the cause of the seizures.
- Other tests
Your doctor may also recommend tests to detect brain abnormalities, such as an electroencephalogram (EEG), CT scan. MRI, positron emission tomography (PET), and single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT).
Symptoms of Epilepsy
Epilepsy is caused by abnormal activity in the brain. Seizures can affect any process your brain coordinates. Symptoms of seizures or epilepsy may include:
- A staring spell
- Loss of consciousness.
- Psychological symptoms such as fear, anxiety, or deja vu.
- Uncontrolled jerking movements of the arms and legs.
Symptoms of seizures or epilepsy can vary, depending on the type of seizure. In most cases, people with epilepsy often experience the same type of seizure all the time, so the symptoms will be similar from one episode to the next.
Treatment for Epilepsy
Treatment for epilepsy usually starts with taking medications recommended by your doctor. If medications do not work, your doctor may suggest surgery or other types of treatment.
In many cases, people with epilepsy can recover from seizures by taking anti-seizure medications, or also known as anti-epileptic medications. Other people may be able to reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures by taking several types of medications at once as directed by the doctor.
To determine the right dosage, your doctor needs to consider several factors, such as your health condition, age, frequency of seizures, and other factors. Your doctor will likely prescribe a relatively low dose of a single medication and may increase the dosage gradually until your seizures are well-controlled.
When medications do not work to control seizures, your doctor may suggest surgery. By having epilepsy surgery, your surgeon will remove the area of your brain that causes the seizure.
Your doctor usually decides to perform surgery if the test results show that the seizure originates from an area of the cerebellum. The area in your brain to be operated on does not interfere with vital functions, such as speech, language, motor function, vision or hearing.
Although it is rare, epilepsy surgery can cause complications, such as permanently altering your thinking (cognitive) abilities. Talk to your surgeon about the success rates or complications rates of your surgery.
Therapy is another treatment option for epilepsy. Therapy procedures may include vagus nerve stimulation therapy, deep brain stimulation, and the keto diet.
Treatment Cost for Epilepsy
Treatment cost for epilepsy can vary greatly, depending on your choice of hospital, the doctor’s fees and treatment method chosen.
For more details regarding the estimated treatment cost for epilepsy at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Epilepsy
Epilepsy can be prevented according to the underlying cause. Below are some ways to prevent epilepsy suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including:
Prevent traumatic brain injury
Traumatic brain injury is a common cause of epilepsy.
- Drive safely. Use seat belts for cars and helmets if you ride a motorbike. This is done to reduce the chance of injury while driving.
- Be careful when you walk. A severe impact on the head from falling can cause brain injury.
- Seek immediate medical assistance if you have a traumatic brain injury. Full recovery from an injury can prevent the possibility of epilepsy.
Implement a Healthy Lifestyle
You should adopt a healthy life to reduce the chances of heart disease and stroke. A healthy lifestyle includes exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and eating healthy foods. This is done to prevent epilepsy in the future.
Protect yourself and your family from dangerous diseases. Vaccines can help lower your chances of being infected with viruses or bacteria that may cause epilepsy.
Maintain personal hygiene
Cysticercosis is a parasitic tissue infection, which is the most common cause of epilepsy around the world. This infection is caused by parasites which can be prevented by maintaining good personal hygiene, such as washing your hands and eating clean foods. It is recommended that you get a medical exam and treatment of cysticercosis early to prevent epilepsy.
Maintain Pregnancy Health
This is intended for pregnant women. Certain problems encountered during pregnancy and childbirth may cause epilepsy. You can create a prenatal care plan with your healthcare provider to ensure both the health of yourself and your baby.
Home Remedies for Epilepsy
There are several home remedies for epilepsy, depending on the frequency of seizures. It is important for you to take anticonvulsant medications regularly to prevent seizures or epilepsy.
The following are some steps you can take to prevent injury when a seizure occurs:
- Place something soft under his or her head.
- Carefully roll the person onto one side.
- Do not try to restrain someone having a seizure.
- Loosen tight neckwear.
- Do not try to put anything in the person’s mouth.
- Do not try to move the person, unless they are in a dangerous place.
- Observe the person closely. Details about the seizures will help the doctor diagnose the type of seizure.
Have more questions about epilepsy? Write them down in the comment section below. You can also do tele-consultations with neurologists from hospitals at home and abroad through Smarter Health.