Recently Disney star Cameron Boyce lost his life after suffering from a severe seizure. Turns out he had been battling from epilepsy since early childhood.
And now people have started to become aware of what epilepsy is and what are the signs, symptoms, and dangers of epilepsy.
Here, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about epilepsy.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a chronic noncommunicable disease. It is a central nervous system (neurological) disorder that affects the functions of the brain.
It makes the activities of the brain abnormal where people suffer from seizures.
The meaning of seizure is that it’s sudden, out of control electrical disturbance that occurs in the brain.
During this period a patient goes through a brief episode of involuntary movement causing sensations, unusual behavior, and loss of consciousness.
It either involves just a part of the body (partial) or the whole entire body (generalized).
However, for a seizure to be diagnosed epilepsy, one should suffer from at least two unprovoked seizures. Around the world, almost 10% of people have at least one seizure during their lifetime.
Epilepsy can affect anyone, from men and women to children. And of all ages, races, and ethnic background.
Epilepsy affects around 50 million people around the world. With written records dating back as far as 4000 B.C., it is one of the world’s oldest recognized disorders.
However, there are a lot of things that led to misconceptions about epilepsy.
Misunderstanding, social stigma, fear, discrimination, etc. Impacted and still impacts on the quality of life of people with epilepsy.
Symptoms of Epilepsy.
As mentioned earlier, epilepsy is caused due to seizures (two or more). But the symptoms can vary widely for different people.
During a seizure, some just tend to stare blankly for a few seconds, while some have repeated twitching in their arms and legs.
Since seizure is a result of abnormal activity in the brain, it can affect any process that it coordinates.
When you’re having seizures, you can feel temporary confusion, fear, anxiety, or even deja vu.
You go on a staring spell and also lose consciousness or awareness.
Also, your arms and legs start jerking uncontrollably.
For every person, the symptoms are different according to the type of seizure.
And for most people with epilepsy, they have a similar seizure on every episode.
Seizures are classified into two types based on abnormal brain activities; Focal seizures and Generalized seizures.
Also known as a partial seizure, a focal seizure is the one that occurs in just one area of your brain. It is also divided into two categories: Focal seizure without the loss of consciousness and Focal seizures with impaired awareness.
Focal Seizure without the loss of consciousness.
This is rather a simple seizure where you don’t lose consciousness. However, it might alter other things like the way things smell, look, feel, sound, or taste. It can also alter emotions or cause involuntary jerking of different body parts.
You might also feel spontaneous sensory symptoms like dizziness, tingling sensation, and flashing lights.
Focal Seizure with Impaired Awareness.
This is a complex seizure where one experiences change or loss of awareness or consciousness. You tend to not respond to your environment and may stare blankly into space during this seizure.
Other signs include chewing, swallowing, rubbing hands, and walking in circles.
A generalized seizure occurs in and affects all area of the brain. It is of six types.
Absence seizure also known as petit mal seizure occurs mostly in children. It involves staring into space, subtle blinking, and lip-smacking. It can occur in a cluster and cause a loss of awareness.
Tonic seizure affects different parts of muscles like the arms, back, and legs.
It stiffens your muscles and might make you fall to the ground.
They are also known as the drop seizure. It makes you lose your muscle control and suddenly collapse.
A clonic seizure is a rhythmic or repeated jerking muscle movements that usually occurs in the face, arm, and the neck.
These seizures are usually a brief and sudden jerking of your arms and legs.
This seizure is also known as the Grand Mal Seizure. It is the most significant seizures of all epileptic seizures.
Tonic-clonic seizure causes a sudden loss of consciousness and stiffening and shaking of the body.
It might also make a patient bite their tongue or cause a loss of bladder control.
What are the Causes of Epilepsy?
Epilepsy has been around for centuries. But there still isn’t a definite answer for its existence.
Doctors still haven’t figured out an identifiable cause of epilepsy in more than half of the people who live with it.
However, there are still a few factors that can be traced to the other half of the population.
Here are some of the major causes of Epilepsy.
Conditions like brain tumors or strokes that causes brain damage can lead to epilepsy. Other damage to head including injury from accidents, etc. can also contribute to the condition.
There are specific seizures one experiences with epilepsy that actually runs in the family. In such cases, it is highly likely that it’s genetically influenced.
If mothers before giving birth have any sort of infections, it is highly likely that the brain of the unborn baby might be damaged. This might lead to babies to suffer from epilepsy.
Other factors such as poor nutrition or oxygen deficiencies can also lead to the same.
Highly infectious diseases like AIDS, meningitis, or viral encephalitis can also lead to epilepsy.
Finally one of the known causes of epilepsy is development disorder. It is when a person isn’t fully developed mentally even though they’re physically grown.
For example, autism or neurofibromatosis.
The Dangers of Epilepsy.
Just because it’s a commonly known condition, doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous.
There are times when epilepsy can lead to death, especially when not treated in time and properly.
While some seizures can be mild and easily controllable, there are times and situations when epileptic seizures can be dangerous.
Epilepsy can be a major problem for women, especially during pregnancy.
Epileptic seizures can become a real threat for both mother and child. And what’s worse than that is the fact that some anti-epileptic medications can increase the risk of birth defects.
While there are also chances of you having a healthy baby, you still need to consult with your doctor before deciding to have a baby.
If you’re having a seizure and you happen to fall, there is a very high chance that you might seriously injure your head or break a couple of bones.
And if you’re swimming or taking a bath and have a seizure, it is highly likely that you might drown.
Also, if you have a seizure while driving, there is a high chance of getting into an accident. Especially if your seizures cause a loss of awareness or control.
Mental Health Issues.
Epileptic people have more chances of having psychological or mental disorders.
They’re more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts and behaviors. It can either be a side effect of medications or having to deal with the difficulties of the condition itself.
Status epilepticus occurs when someone gets continuous seizure that lasts more than five minutes.
Another possibility of its occurrence is if you get frequent seizures without gaining full consciousness in between.
Status epilepticus increases the risk of permanent brain damage or even death in people.
Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP).
The cause is still unknown but there is a tiny risk that you might have a sudden and unexpected death.
It mostly occurs in people whose seizures cannot be controlled with medications. However, only about 1% of people with epilepsy die of SUDEP.
The major reason behind it can be due to a heart or respiratory condition.
Risk Factors of Epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a common condition that can affect any gender of any race or religion, at any point in time.
However, there are certain risk factors that have the possibility of increasing your risk of epilepsy even more.
Seizures in Childhood.
People have some misconception when it comes to seizure in childhood and epilepsy.
They believe Febrile seizure (a convulsion in a child caused by increasing body temperature) is a sign of epilepsy. But the truth is seizures due to high fever isn’t necessarily a sign.
However, there is a higher chance if a child has a longer seizure or any family history or nervous system condition.
Having a family history of epilepsy increases your risk of having seizures and developing epilepsy.
Epilepsy is usually common among children and older adults. However, there is a risk of having seizures at any age.
Dementia is one of the biggest risk factors for developing epileptic seizures among older adults.
Stroke or other Vascular Diseases.
There is a high risk of developing epilepsy if you’re a heart patient. A history of stroke or cardiovascular disease can increase the risk of brain damage.
Head Injuries/Brain Infection.
If you’ve ever had a severe head injury from an accident or anything else, you have a high risk of developing epilepsy.
Or, if you suffer from any brain infection like meningitis, it can lead to inflammation to your brain or spinal cord. This increases the risk of epilepsy in many people.
So, it is very important to take precautions when it comes to epileptic seizures, especially if you lose consciousness.
You need to immediately seek medical help if your seizures last more than five minutes.
Don’t neglect conditions like high fever, diabetes, unconsciousness, or pregnancy.
Other factors to consider is if you’re injured during a seizure, feeling heat exhaustion, and you experience another seizure right after the first episode.