Despite the fact that epilepsy is the most common of the neurological disorders it remains both feared and misunderstood. In epilepsy, the normal passage of electrical impulses in the brain is disrupted due to altered chemical states. The resulting disruption leads to scrambled electrical activity which can ultimately trigger a seizure. The terms seizure, fit and convulsion are often used to describe the same thing.
Roughly one person in every 200 will experience a seizure at some point in their life. Seizures can occur at any stage but are more common in the first 20 years of life and in elderly people. More than half of all those who develop epilepsy have their first attack by the age of 15.
Chronic epilepsy is the term used when seizures have continued for more than five years. Males tend to be more prone than females and the prevalence is roughly 30 per cent higher among people with learning difficulties.
Causes of Epilepsy
In around 60 per cent of cases, no cause can be identified. For the remaining 40 per cent, epilepsy is a symptom of some other cerebral cause, part of which is related to age, but which also include:
In babies, seizures often indicate that brain damage has occurred before or during birth. There is also some evidence that epilepsy can be inherited. Use of alcohol and drugs may also lead to seizures.
Factors Triggering Epileptic Seizures
Seizures can occur without warning but often there are some fairly common precipitating factors:
Diagnostic Tests for Epilepsy
It has to be remembered that we all have the potential to have seizures and that sometimes other conditions can resemble epilepsy. Diagnosis may initially take the form of observation and identification of unusual circumstances e.g. hunger, thirst, stress, general health, family history and past medical history.
Other investigations could include:
Drug Treatments for Epilepsy
A single seizure does not require treatment but recurrent seizures would. Until the 1970s it was accepted practice to use polytherapy, that is, a cocktail of drugs. Monotherapy is more the accepted practice with the choice of drug being based upon assessment and diagnosis. Anti-epileptic drugs are divided into two groups:
Medications include the following:
Ethosuximide, phenytoin, lamotrigine, carbamezapine, sodium valporatepiracetam, primidone, acetazolamide, clobazam, clonazepam, gabpeutin, phenobarbitone, vigabatrin
Video Link for Witnessing a Seizure: What You Should Do
Article Source Includes: Center for Disease Control and Prevention