What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a tendency to have recurrent seizures or temporary alteration in one or more brain functions. Learn more about epilepsy.
Approximately one person in every 200 suffers from epilepsy with the estimated number of epileptics in the United States being close to one million. Epilepsy is a tendency to have recurrent seizures or temporary alteration in one or more brain functions. The seizures are defined as transient neurological abnormalities caused by abnormal electrical activities in the brain. In most cases human activities such as thoughts, perceptions and emotions are normally the result of an orderly excitation of nerve cells in the brain. When a seizure is occurring, a chaotic and unregulated electrical discharge occurs. Even flashing lights have been known to set off this abnormal sequence, but they often just appear spontaneously.
Seizures are a brain dysfunction symptom just like any other symptom in other parts of the body. They can result from a large variety of disease or injury such as head injuries, birth trauma, meningitis, encephalitis, brain tumors, strokes, drug intoxication, drug or alcohol withdrawal or a metabolic imbalance in the body. Epileptic seizures can be classified into two broad groups as generalized and partial seizures. In most cases the form a seizure takes will depend on the part of the brain in which it arises and how widely or rapidly it fans out from its point of origin. Generalized seizures, which tend to cause a loss of consciousness and affect the entire body, can arise over a wide area of the brain. Temporal lobe epilepsy is a type of partial seizure in which consciousness may be retained. These are usually caused by damage to a more limited area of the brain and the electrical disturbance may spread, affecting the whole brain causing a generalized seizure.
Most people who have epilepsy lead a normal life and have no symptoms between seizures. Many can tell when an attack is imminent by experiencing an aura, restlessness, irritability or uncomfortable feeling. Seizures tend to appear at times of extreme fatigue or stress and during an infectious illness when fever is present. By avoiding these situations and taking prescribed medication regularly epileptics can reduce the frequency of their seizures. Some epileptics discover a distracting technique that can abort a seizure once the aura has begun. The first line of treatment for epilepsy is anti-convulsant drugs. These may have unpleasant side effects including drowsiness and impaired concentration. In some cases a combination is needed to control the seizures.
When epilepsy develops in childhood with a strong family history of the disease the chances are good that the problem will decrease after adolescence. In some cases it will disappear altogether. If the disorder has been brought about by severe brain damage or temporal lobe epilepsy it is likely to be more difficult. Most epileptic seizures last only a minute or two and demand little help from a bystander. Allow the seizure to run its course, ensuring that the person is in no physical danger and can breath while they are unconscious. Do not restrain the victim or place anything in the mouth. Nor should you attempt to move the victim unless they are in danger of further injury. Carefully loosen any tight clothing around the neck and when the attack is over, place the victim in a recovery position allowing them to regain consciousness.