Epilepsy: Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over time. Seizures are episodes of disturbed brain activity that cause changes in attention or behavior. It’s also called a seizure disorder. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy. Epilepsy is not a mental disorder, it is caused by anything that affects the brain like tumors and strokes, and it can even be inherited. Epilepsy is one of the most common chronic neurological disorders. An estimated 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy. It can be present at any age although its onset is most often in childhood or in the later years of life. Sometimes those who develop seizures during childhood outgrow their seizures. In the elderly, there is an increased incidence due to strokes and aging of the brain.
How it works: Seizures may vary from a momentary disruption of the senses, to short periods of unconsciousness or staring spells, or even to convulsions. Some people have just one type of seizure, others have more than one. Most seizures are caused by the same thing: a sudden change in how the cells of the brain send electrical signals to each other. A seizure may take many different forms including a blank stare, muscle spasms, uncontrolled movements, altered awareness, odd sensations, or a convulsion. The seizure types are tonic, atonic, atypical absence, myoclonic. The person may experience body sensations such as “pins and needles”, smells, sounds, fear, depression, distortions of sensory stimuli, momentary jerks or head nods, staring with loss of awareness and convulsive movements. Seizures result from a shift in the normal balance of excitation and inhibition within the CNS as well as from abnormal brain function.
Symptoms/Causes: Some of the causes of Epilepsy include strokes, Alzheimer's disease, traumatic brain injury, and abnormal blood vessels in the brain. There are several ways to diagnose Epilepsy including EGG, CT scan, and neuropsychology. Causes epilepsy are further divided into acute and remote causes. This sub-classification depends on whether there is active brain disease, or whether the brain abnormality is the result of an injury caused by a previous event. Symptoms range from a mild seizure to shaking and loss of alertness. The very first signs are a sense of tingling, smelling of odor that actually isn’t there and emotional change (aura).
Prevention: Since the cause of Epilepsy is unclear there really is no specific way of preventing it. Taking precautions such as wearing a helmet in sports, always wearing a seatbelt in the car, are a great way to prevent head injuries and reduce the risk of Epilepsy.
Treatment: Treatment involves either surgery or medication. Medication to prevent seizures, called anticonvulsants, may reduce the number of future seizures. Surgery to place a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) may be recommended. This device is similar to a heart pacemaker. It can help reduce the number of seizures. Lifestyle changes could bring dramatic improvement, more sleep, a healthier diet, and no alcohol or drug use. It is important for the patient to be an active participant in the discussion and treatment of his or