Describing epilepsy can be as simple as comparing our brain to a computer that has gone haywire. Just imagine the way your monitor would blink because a malfunction has occurred in your processor. An epilepsy is something like that. When there is an abnormal electrical activity in the brain, usually characterized by a high rate of transmission of electrical signals from the brain, which normally sends these signals at a different phase in order to command the functions and movements of the body, the victim will experience some strange sensations and emotions that will cause them to behave in a very strange manner. Some of them may make some involuntary movements like muscle spasms. Some of them even end up losing consciousness.
EPILEPSY SYMPTOMSThe symptoms of epilepsy depend on the type of seizure that the patient experiences. The types of seizures can be divided into two: generalized seizures which involve the production of impulses throughout the brain and partial seizures which involve the production of impulses in an area of the brain.
General seizures can be further classified into six types: Grand Mal or Generalized tonic-clonic, Absence, Myoclinic, Clonic, Tonic and Atonic. Among these six types of seizures, grand mal is the most well known. Loss of consciousness, stiffening and collapses are signs of this type of seizure.
Another type of seizure is called absence seizure. When a person experiences this, he usually stops whatever he is doing and stares blankly into space. Myoclonic seizures, on the other hand, cause sporadic jerks on either sides of the body. When the jerks become rhythmic, then it becomes clonic seizures.
The last two types of seizures concern the muscles. Tonic seizures involve the stiffening of the muscles while the atonic seizures cause a person to lose muscle tone.
Partial Seizures can be further divided into three classifications. Simple partial seizures involve spasms, jerking, muscle rigidity as well as the turning of a person's head. These symptoms are accompanied by mental or emotional disturbances as well as unusual sensations. As for complex seizures, patients experience involuntary movements like chewing, lip smacking and fidgeting. The last type of partial seizure is called partial seizure with secondary generalization. When a patient undergoes this type of seizure, loss of consciousness and convulsions can be expected.
EPILEPSY DIAGNOSISThe first thing that the doctor would ask about is the patient’s history. He would want to know if the patient has had a history of seizures. He would also ask about the frequency of these seizures. You may also need to describe the sensations that you have experienced during these episodes. After that, he will ask the patient to go through some tests.
In order to find out the etiology of the epilepsy, discover which brain region is affected by it as well as classify the syndrome, the doctor may need to ask the patient to go through EEG, MRI, SPECT, PET and magnetoencephalography. The ideal standard for diagnosing epilepsy is going through a long-term video EEG monitoring. Unfortunately, this is not always done because the cost is quite high. This form of test is not always available and it can cause a lot of inconvenience to the patient and his family. The tests are also necessary because there are some diseases that also have seizures as a symptom. Being unable to differentiate these seizures can lead to a misdiagnosis.
EPILEPSY TREATMENTThe treatment of epilepsy usually involves drug therapy. Classic medications that are prescribed by doctors for epilepsy are: Dilantin or Phenytek, Phenobarbital, Tegretol or Carbatrol, Mysoline, Zarontin, Depakene, Depakate and even tranquilizers like Valium, Tranxene and Klonopene. Recently, the market has been beefed up with newer medications like Felbatol, Gabitril, Keppra, Lamictal, Lyrica, Neurontin, Tropamax, Trilepal and Zonegran.
Take note that the drugs used for treating epilepsy have some side effects. Because the drugs used do affect the central nervous system, they usually cause sleepiness, fatigue and blurry or double vision. Unsteadiness and stomach upset can also be expected.
Some drugs, like Dilantin and Phenytek, can cause gum swelling. Hair loss can also be caused by Phenytek. As you can see, it is important to ask your doctor about the medication he is prescribing so that you are ready for the side effects that may occur. After all, most treatments for epilepsy last for years or even a lifetime.
For people with epilepsy, seizures can happen anytime. In order to save loved ones as well as the stranger standing beside you, here are some pointers that you should remember when you see someone who is going through a seizure. First and foremost, you should be calm enough to take care of the victim. Try taking a few deep breaths before rushing to the victim.