Focus on Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a group of related disorders characterised by a tendency for recurrent seizures.

There are different types of epilepsy and seizures. Epilepsy drugs are prescribed to control seizures, and rarely surgery is necessary if medications are ineffective.


Types of seizures

While many types of repetitive behaviour may represent a neurological problem, a doctor needs to establish whether or not they are seizures.

Generalised seizures. All areas of the brain (the cortex) are involved in a generalised seizure. Sometimes these are referred to as grand mal seizures.

The person experiencing such a seizure may cry out or make some sound, stiffen for several seconds to a minute and then have rhythmic movements of the arms and legs. Often the rhythmic movements slow before stopping. Eyes are generally open.

The person may appear to not be breathing and actually turn blue. This may be followed by a period of deep, noisy breathes.

The return to consciousness is gradual and the person may be confused for quite some time, minutes to hours. Loss of urine is common. The person will frequently be confused after a generalised seizure.

* Partial or focal seizures. Only part of the brain is involved, so only part of the body is affected. Depending on the part of the brain having abnormal electrical activity, symptoms may vary.

If the part of the brain controlling movement of the hand is involved, then only the hand may show rhythmic or jerky movements.

If other areas of the brain are involved, symptoms might include strange sensations like a full feeling in the stomach or small repetitive movements such as picking at one’s clothes or smacking of the lips.

Sometimes the person with a partial seizure appears dazed or confused. This may represent a complex partial seizure. The term complex is used by doctors to describe a person who is between being fully alert and unconscious.

* Absence or petit mal seizures. These are most common in childhood. Impairment of consciousness is present with the person often staring blankly. Repetitive blinking or other small movements may be present. Typically, these seizures are brief, lasting only seconds. Some people may have many of these in a day.

(Video by Healthguru)

Here are some tips if you or someone you love has epilepsy:

* Always carry medical identification. If an emergency happens, knowledge of your seizure disorder can help the people around you keep you safe and provide the appropriate treatment.

* Make sure your family, friends, and co-workers know what to do if you have a seizure.

* Avoid potential dangers of high places or moving machinery at home, school, or work if you have active seizures. Though there is less risk if your seizures are under control, you should focus on the specific risks of certain activities.

* It is important for you to stay active, but you should choose your sports and other activities wisely. You may want to avoid contact sports, but if your seizures are well controlled, you can lead a normal life. The buddy system works well, so have another person with you who knows you have seizures and what to do if you have one.

* If you take anticonvulsant medication, do not suddenly stop taking it or change the dosage without consulting your doctor. The type of anticonvulsant medication you are prescribed depends on the type of epilepsy you have, and the dose is determined by your weight, age, gender, and other factors.

* Be alert to the risks of possible drug interactions between your anticonvulsant drugs and other medications you may take, including over-the-counter drugs. Always call your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure what interactions could occur before taking any medication. Most pharmacists will do this for you.

* Avoid alcohol, as it can interfere with the effectiveness of your medication and may lower the brain’s seizure threshold.

* Information obtained from WebMD.

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