Epilepsy is a neurological disorder of the central nervous system that affects the activity of the brain causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness.
Fast facts about epilepsy
- Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder that affects people of all age groups and races.
- The literal meaning of epilepsy is “seizure disorder”.
- It is characterized by unpredictable seizures that are related to other health problems.
- Public misinterpretation and lack of knowledge cause challenges that are often worse than seizures.
Revised definition of epilepsy
Epilepsy is characterized by a wide range of seizure types that vary from person to person. The human brain is the source of epilepsy. Epilepsy is a chronic disorder characterized by unprovoked and recurrent seizures.
Seizures and epilepsy are not synonymous terms. An epileptic seizure is the transient stage of signs or symptoms that occur due to excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain cells. Epilepsy is characterized by a general predisposition to generate epileptic seizures and the neurobiological, psychological, social, and cognitive consequences of this ailment. In simple words, a seizure is simply an event and epilepsy is a disease involving recurrent and unprovoked seizures.
A commonly used definition of epilepsy is the occurrence of two unprovoked seizures more than 24 hours apart. This definition has a few limitations since it does not allow the possibility of outgrowing epilepsy. The word “provoked” implies that people who have photosensitive seizures caused by flashing lights or patterns do not have epilepsy, whereas it is a general concept that they have the disease. Individuals who experienced only one unprovoked seizure have other risk factors that make them liable for another seizure. Many clinicians treat such people with medications as if they had epilepsy. Some individuals experience a condition called epilepsy syndrome.
An individual is considered epileptic if they meet any of the following conditions;
1. At least two unprovoked seizures occur within 48 hours.
2. A single unprovoked seizure and a probability of unprovoked seizures over the next ten years.
3. Diagnosis of an epilepsy syndrome
By definition, epilepsy is now a disease rather than a disorder, since the term disease better connotes the seriousness of epilepsy to the public.
What is a seizure?
A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the neuronal cells of the brain. Seizures affect the behavior of an individual for a short duration of time. Many different signs and symptoms can occur during a seizure. The nature of a seizure varies from person to person because the lobes of the brain control different behaviors, experiences, and movements.
In a seizure, brain cells either excite or inhibit neighboring brain cells from sending messages. Usually, there is a balance between excitable and inhibitory cells. Sudden abnormal chemical changes lead to an imbalance that provokes a seizure.
Can a single or two seizures lead to epilepsy?
- About 50% of individuals who experienced one seizure without a clear cause will probably experience another one within the next six months.
- If the cause of the seizure is unknown, then you are twice as likely to have another seizure.
- If you have experienced two seizures, there is about an 80% chance that you will have more.
- If the first seizure occurred at the time of an injury or infection in the brain, then you are more likely to develop epilepsy. Most often, seizures do not occur until weeks or months after the initial injury or infection.
- You are likely to experience more seizures if the neurologist has found any abnormalities on a neurological exam.
- An EEG test can help in the diagnosis of epilepsy and can predict the occurrence of seizures by looking at the electrical activity of the brain. Certain patterns of electroencephalogram are typical of epilepsy. An abnormal EEG increases the likelihood of seizures to about 60%.
Such individuals should immediately look for the best neurologist near them and start the treatment. Within Chelsea in Manhattan, New York, some of the best neurologists in America are working for the betterment of epileptics.
What happens during a seizure?
Seizures can take many different forms in different individuals.
- An aura or warning is the first symptom of a seizure and is considered a part of it.
- The middle of the seizure is called the ictal phase and it correlates with the enhanced electrical seizure activity in the brain.
- At the end of the seizure, the postictal phase occurs, which is considered the recovery period after the seizure. Some individuals recover immediately while others may take a few minutes to hours before they feel like their usual selves.
Common symptoms before a seizure
- Sensory, emotional, or behavioral changes
- Visual loss or blurred vision
- Fear or panic
- Pleasant feelings
- Strange feelings
- Racing thoughts
Physical changes before a seizure
- Feeling lightheaded
- Abdominal cramps
- Numbness or tingling in the part of the body
Common symptoms during a seizure
- Loss of awareness called blackout
- Periods of forgetfulness or memory loss
- Distracted or daydreaming
- Loss of consciousness or passing out
- Transient deafness
- Unusual smells
- Loss of vision or blurry vision
- Flashing lights
- Feelings of panic or fear
Physical changes during a seizure
- Unable to speak or swallow
- Blinking of eyes
- Lack of movement or muscle tone
- Tremors, twitching or jerky movements
- Rigidity of muscles
- Change in skin color
- Dilation of the pupil of the eye
- Biting of tongue
- Difficulty breathing
- Tachycardia (increased cardiac rhythm)
Common symptoms after a seizure
- Slow response
- Sleepy or confuse
- Memory loss
- Difficulty in talking
- Feeling depressed or sad
- Scared, anxious, frustrated, or embarrassed feelings
Physical changes after a seizure
- Headache or pain in other body parts
- Feeling tired, exhausted, or sleepy for a short span of time
- Nausea or upset stomach
- General body weakness
- Urge to visit the bathroom
Within Manhattan, there are a number of neurological patients with epilepsy who are taking treatment from neurologists in Manhattan. If you experience any of the above-listed symptoms, visit a neurology center in your location.
– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.
About The AuthorDr. Syra Hanif M.D.
Board Certified Primary Care Physician
Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.Read More