Nearly 125,000 people are diagnosed with epilepsy yearly. Epilepsy is a common disease that causes seizures. Just because you have one seizure does not mean you have epilepsy. Two or more seizures that occur at least 24 hours apart and without obvious triggers distinguishes epilepsy. Epilepsy is a result of a malfunction in the brain’s electrical system. The body is not plugged into a wall to get charged, but it does work off electric impulses. There are nerves in the brain and spinal cord that uses electric impulses to communicate. When these impulses do not act properly, you experience persistent seizures leading to epilepsy.
The brain is a mass of soft tissue that has nerves throughout it. The nerves in the brain communicate through electric impulses. Neurons are the name given to the nerve cells. Neurons have three parts: axon, dendrite, and cell body. The cell body is the part of the neuron that stores the nucleus. The cell body receives the electrical message. The axon is the part of the neuron that carries the electrical chemicals. Dendrites are also called nerve endings. The dendrites transmit electrical signals from one neuron to another. The neurons are not all connected. Neurons are fairly short and spaced out. Electrical impulses jump from one neuron to another neuron. When these impulses go haywire, you begin to have seizures.
Symptoms of seizures are dependent upon the type of seizure. Certain things trigger seizures, but epileptic seizures can occur out of nowhere. You may start having uncontrolled movements in the legs and arms. Sometimes the shaking starts in the legs and works its way up the body. You do not always lose consciousness, but it is possible. Many people say they can feel a seizure coming on. Sometimes you cannot and it causes you to fall or lose your balance. You may also feel nauseous or vomit before, during, or after a seizure. It is important first to understand the different types of seizures. Knowing the different types of seizures will help you identify the symptoms.
Types of Seizures
Epilepsy can differ from person to person. It just depends on the type of seizure you are experiencing. There are three types of seizures: generalized seizures, partial seizures, and petit mal seizures. Generalized seizures are those that we are familiar with. When you think about a seizure, you always picture shaking and a loss of consciousness. This is just a description of a generalized or grand mal seizure. The arms and legs typically stiffen at first. Once the extremities stiffen, you could fall. Soon after the shaking begins. This can last for 3 minutes. It is the worst type of seizure because it affects both sides of the brain. Partial seizures only affect one side of the brain. You do not lose consciousness, but you do have jerking motions. Sometimes you have activity as if you have Tourettes. You may wander around, fumble, or do a lot of mumbling. You will not be conscious of what is going on even though it seems as if you are alert. Petit mal seizures are like staring spells. You can be in the middle of doing something when all of a sudden you blank out and start staring. It only lasts for a few seconds and after that, you go back to doing what you are doing.
Many different things cause epilepsy. A head injury like a concussion can cause epilepsy. Along with brain trauma, the structure of the brain can change. As the brain shifts or moves, electrical impulses may start malfunctioning. Genes also play a role. Genes are a primary result of heredity. If epilepsy runs in the family, you are at a higher risk of having epilepsy too. Strokes and lack of oxygen to the brain will also cause epilepsy. Viruses and infections may also lead to epilepsy, especially when they affect the brain.
To diagnose epilepsy, the doctor will order an EEG. An EEG measures the electrical brain waves. It can diagnose any abnormal activity. It also shows which part of the brain is being affected by seizures. Some doctors will use CT scans and X-rays to diagnose epilepsy. These scans show if other abnormalities are leading to epilepsy. Sometimes masses sit on the brain and cause seizures. The treatment for seizures is anti-seizure drugs. Taking the medication as prescribed typically controls seizures. Sometimes a change in diet will work to treat seizures. In more severe cases, you may need a minimally invasive surgery to implant a device. The implant is not put into the head but into the chest. The device sends electrical impulses to the brain in the hope that it will balance out electrical chemicals. If tumors are the problem, surgery may be required to remove the tumor.
Epilepsy is a condition that can be very scary if you know nothing about it. Different things cause epilepsy, and unfortunately, it can occur out of nowhere. Epilepsy affects many different people, but if you have it, you can control it. Getting electrical impulses under control will allow you to maintain control of your brain activity and seizures. Gaining awareness about epilepsy is important. If you are suffering from it, find out what treatment works best for you. Do not give up your fight to cure epilepsy.
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