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What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which the nerve cell activity of brain is disturbed, causing an abnormal body movement and behavior called seizure.  During seizure, person may have abnormal behavior and may lose consciousness.


What are seizures?

A seizure or convulsion is a sudden change in the behavior that occurs after an abnormal electrical activity in the brain. The person’s body muscles contract and relax uncontrollably and repeatedly. Seizures are classified in to Focal seizures, when the seizures results from abnormal activity in just one area of brain or Generalized seizures, when the seizures that involve multiple areas of the brain.

If the seizure lasts for more than five minutes, and problem in breathing or consciousness doesn't return after the seizure stops, seek immediate medical attention.  


What are the causes and risk factors of Epilepsy?

There are no identifiable causes of epilepsy. It may be due to genetic causes or due to brain trauma, infections or developmental disorders.

Certain factors may increase the risk of epilepsy, such as age, and family history. Epilepsy may trigger following a head injury or stroke. In older adults dementia increases the risk of epilepsy.


What are the signs and symptoms of Epilepsy?

Depending on which part of the brain is involved, the symptoms of epilepsy may differ. The symptoms may occur suddenly and stop in a few seconds to 15 minutes.

These may include:

  • A state where the person cannot remember for a short time
  • Sudden anger, unexplainable fear, panic, joy, or laughter
  • Teeth clenching
  • Clutching of clothes or the person stands next.
  • Frothing from the mouth
  • Abnormal eye movements, shaking of the entire body, sudden fall
  • Uncontrollable muscle tightness with twitching and jerking of the limbs
  • Lost bladder or bowel control
  • Difficulty in breathing



How is Epilepsy treated?

It is important to have a thorough diagnosis and identification of type of epilepsy, for choosing right treatment. Most of the seizures are controlled through medication and diet, but in some cases surgery may be needed. The treatment is chosen according to the duration, frequency and severity of seizures, also after considering age and health of the patient.

It is important to educate patient and family members about epilepsy and the measures to be taken during seizure. The social and psychological support plays an important role.


What precautions are important for a person suffering from Epilepsy?

Sometimes epilepsy itself may damage brain and can be deadly. Thus it is important to seek medical assistance at the earliest.

Some complications of the epilepsy may sometime endanger life. Situations like a fall during seizure may cause head injury or bone fractures. If the person with epilepsy swims or drives may cause accidents due to loss of control on seizures. The operating of large machineries and working on the top of multistoried buildings are to be considered dangerous to people with epilepsy.



How to deal Epilepsy in pregnancy?

If a woman with epilepsy plans to get pregnant, it is advisable to talk to the physician. Women with epilepsy should take extra care as the seizures during pregnancy may endanger both mother and baby. Also some of the anti-epileptic drugs are known to cause birth defects. With careful monitoring during pregnancy, and proper adjustment of medications, women with epilepsy can deliver a healthy baby.


How can I help if I see someone is having a seizure?

Some time the seizures will be so obvious that the people around can recognize and act accordingly. But sometime the seizures will be without any signs and it may start with a sudden fall.  Any sharp or solid objects nearby could be removed during the seizure.  Turn the person on his side so as to prevent the blocking of airways by fluid he vomits. Raise his head a little, loosen tight cloths around chest and neck and open the airway. If there is clutching of teeth; hold the jaw gently to avoid biting the tongue.

Allow him to move around if he is not in danger. It is advisable not to insert anything into the mouth including liquid medicines due to the fear of choking.

If the patient is pregnant or diabetic or he does not return to normal within 5-10 minutes, take him to doctor immediately. Note the duration of seizure and other symptoms so as to help doctor inside the emergency room. Stay with him until he returns to complete consciousness.


Epilepsy. Epilepsy foundation website. Accessed on 23 September 2014.Seizures. . U.S. National Library of Medicine website. Accessed on 23 September 2014.