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Understanding epilepsy

Epilepsy can happen to anyone. It can affect people of all ages. It is a common belief that individuals cannot begin to show signs of neurological disorder in their adult lives. However, research shows that adults can start experiencing seizure disorders late in their lives. The types of seizures and control always vary from person-to-person. Although 3.4 million people in the US have epilepsy, it is unlikely that all of them share the same seizure types.

What causes epilepsy?

It is a chronic neurological disorder during which a person experiences unprovoked seizures. Sometimes, epileptic episodes can be due to brain injury, brain tumor or due to a family history of the disease. However, most commonly, the cause of the disorder is unknown. While epilepsy describes the condition, it does not define the cause(s) or the severity of the symptoms.

How can epilepsy be dangerous to the victim?

The persistence of seizures can lead to other problems. Sometimes, EEG and fMRIs are necessary to discern the cause and the effect of these seizures. Recurrent seizures can cause damage to some regions of the brain. Studies have shown that children suffering from frequent epileptic episodes can experience delayed development of cognitive abilities. Moreover, seizures can become a safety concern especially when the person operates heavy machinery, drives frequently or is in charge of other individuals, including children. At the same time, he or she might be in danger, if he or she has to go out frequently and travel by public transport to school or office. It affects every aspect of the patient’s life including personal relationships, work, and lifestyle.

What are the tell-tale signs of epilepsy?

The most common symptoms of epilepsy include the following –

  • Short spells of fainting or blackout with a confused memory
  • Bouts of convulsions with no rise in temperature
  • Short periods of unresponsiveness
  • Sudden stiffness
  • Falling suddenly
  • Sudden spells of chewing or blinking without any external stimulus
  • Repetitive movements of body parts
  • Rapid jerking of arms, legs and other body parts
  • Sudden strange changes in senses like sound, smell and touch.

People with a history of head trauma or stroke have the chance of developing epilepsy later in life. AIDS and encephalitis also increase the chances of a person experiencing convulsions. Any form of developmental disorders like neurofibromatosis and autism increase the chances of a person suffering from neurological disease. According to CDC, epilepsy is not a condition that researchers and medical experts understand entirely.

What are the most common medicines for treating epilepsy?

The first line of treatment includes anti-epileptic drugs that include sodium valproate, carbamazepine, levetiracetam, and lamotrigine. Anti-epileptic medications in more than 70% of the diagnosed cases. However, the patients who do not improve after staying on these medicines for a while may receive novel or experimental treatment from their healthcare professionals. Interestingly, not all patients react the same way to these drugs. The effectiveness varies even when the symptoms of the neurological condition is similar between two individuals of the same age. Most importantly, the right dose of the medicine can be different for two people. Even when one finds the right drug, it is imperative to find the right dose for stopping the convulsions.

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