Epilepsy is a disorder that affects the brain. Causing seizures or fits, the sufferer will experience these bouts intermittently throughout their lives.
The severity of the fits and seizures vary depending upon the individual. Epilepsy symptoms can be characterised by anything from falling into a ‘dreamlike’ state to losing consciousness and convulsing for short periods of time.
Relatively common in occurrence, epilepsy affects around 50 million people worldwide – making it the most widespread neurological condition. This means that research on the condition is ongoing and epilepsy treatments are continually being developed and improved.
Although prevention of this disease is so far impossible, there are factors and treatments that reduce the chance of attacks occurring.
For most sufferers of epilepsy, the cause is difficult to identify. As it’s not technically a disease or mental illness, more a neurological disorder, epilepsy can simply develop without any warning signs. Known triggers in the first instance point to things like infection or a head injury, or a stroke or a brain tumour.
Even though epilepsy can occur at any point in a person’s life, the most common age for it to emerge is in early childhood or after 65.
Hyper-synchronous neuronal activity is the medical term that explains epileptics’ unexpected fits and seizures. This means that abnormal patterns of electrical activity within the brain are thought to be behind the symptoms.
Certain triggers of the symptoms of epilepsy are believed to be: alcohol, stress, lack of sleep and strobe lighting. If suffering from epilepsy, it’s advised to avoid these factors and take anti-epileptic medication. In more serious cases, surgery can help.
Types of Epilespy
Although there are around 40 different types of epilepsy with various permutations of symptoms, the four basic categories are: generalised tonic-clonic, generalised absence, simple partial and complex partial.
‘Generalised tonic-clonic’ is characterised by convulsions, loss of consciousness, body rigidity, possible incontinence and a chance of biting tongue during the fit
‘Generalised absence’ is identified as a brief loss of consciousness and a ‘daydreaming’ look on the face
‘Simple partial’ is defined by the sufferer being aware that they are having an attack, but may include involuntary twitching in parts of the body. They may even be aware of odd smells, sounds or tastes
‘Complex partial’ is characterised by the sufferer experiencing odd tastes and smells and déjà-vu, going into a dream-like state, fidgeting and could event in a seizure
Epilepsy and Pregnancy
As with any triggers of the symptoms of epilepsy, it depends entirely in the individual as to the disorder’s effect on pregnancy.
Treating epilepsy with conventional medications goes with a risk when pregnant. Although the chances of birth defects and complications are low, it’s always necessary to talk to a medical specialist in this case; so doses of any current epilepsy medicine can be modified if necessary.
Living with Epilepsy
More and more is becoming known about epilepsy and there are many medications and supplements that help reduce the chance of experiencing the symptoms of the disorder.
If any of the symptoms are experienced, your doctor should be the first port of call.