WORDS ABRAHAM MATHEW SAJI
Causes of Epilepsy and its Seizures
In a majority of cases, the underlying cause of the epileptic seizure cannot be determined. The most possible causes may include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Scarring on the brain after a brain injury (post-traumatic epilepsy)
- Serious illness or very high fever
- Stroke (leading cause of epilepsy in people over age 35)
- Other vascular diseases such as lack of oxygen to the brain
- Brain tumor or cyst
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Maternal drug use
- Prenatal injury and lack of oxygen at birth
- Brain malformation
- Infectious diseases such as meningitis
- Genetic or developmental disorders or neurological diseases
- Heredity also plays a role in some types of epilepsy—genetics may also make some people more susceptible to seizures from environmental triggers.
Diagnosis of Epilepsy and Its Seizures
In addition to taking of medical history, the healthcare practitioner will carry out pathological tests to check for signs of infection, blood glucose levels, and functioning of certain vital organs like heart, liver, and kidney.
There could also be a neurological examination to test motor abilities and mental functioning. Additional tests may include electroencephalogram (EEG) and positron emission tomography (PET) to record the electrical activities in the brain, andd CT and MRI scans to check on the image of the brain for any potential damage or deformation or growth.
Treatment of Epilepsy and Its Seizures
There is no established cure for epilepsy, but it can be managed.
The medication and treatment regimen will vary based on the type, severity and frequency of symptoms. It will also depend to a great extent on the general health and presence of any other underlying conditions of the patient. Some patients stop having epileptic seizures and are able to stop the anti-epileptic medication therapy.
Surgery or resection is another option for treatment. This involves removing the part of the brain where the seizures start. In some cases, the patient will be kept awake during this surgery so that the doctors can communicate with the patient and avoid removing part of the brain that controls important functions such as vision, hearing, speech, or movement.
If the area of the brain is too big or important to remove, there’s another procedure called multiple subpial transection, or disconnection. The surgeon makes cuts in the brain to interrupt the nerve pathway. That keeps seizures from spreading to other areas of the brain.
With advances in medical research and technology, the future could witness some non-invasive procedures like brain or nerve stimulation, control of electrical signals in the brain and radiosurgery.
The Road Ahead for Better Management of Epilepsy
In addition to regular doctor visits and following your treatment plan, here are some things that can be done to cope with epilepsy.
- Keep a seizure diary to help identify possible trigger factors so that they can be avoided
- Wear a medical alert bracelet so people know what to do in case of a sudden seizure
- Teach the near and dear ones about seizures and what to do in an emergency
- Seek professional help for any symptoms of depression or anxiety
- Join a support group for people with seizure disorders
- Incorporate lifestyle changes by eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise
- Be safe and stay safe by adapting to some practices like covering sharp corners or edges, avoid locking bathroom doors, have guards or insulations on heaters
- Get adequate sleep daily
- Take stops or exchange drivers while on long drives to enable the body and mind recoup
- Always wear a helmet while riding a bicycle or motorbike