Epilepsy is a condition involving recurrent seizures, triggered by electrical signals in the brain. At least two seizures with no traceable cause are necessary to properly diagnose epilepsy. Regardless of severity, all seizures need to be taken care of, because they can pose dangers during activities such as driving and swimming.
Symptoms of Epilepsy
Epilepsy is caused by abnormal brain cell activity; therefore, seizures can affect any activities carried out by the brain. Temporary confusion, loss of consciousness, and staring spells are some of the symptoms associated with having a seizure. While the symptoms vary from patient to patient, recurring seizures usually take on the same set of symptoms in a given patient.
Seizures can be classified into two separate categories, partial and generalized. Partial seizures, sometimes referred to as focal seizures, stem from just one part of the brain. Partial seizures can be broken down further into two subcategories: simple partial seizures and complex partial seizures. Generalized seizures are caused from the entire brain, and consist of four subcategories: absence seizures, myoclonic seizures, atonic seizures, and tonic-clonic (or grand mal) seizures.
Causes of Epilepsy
In about fifty percent of epilepsy patients, the cause is unknown. The other fifty percent have epilepsy due to developmental disorders, head trauma, genetics, dementia, prenatal injury, and/or certain diseases.
Testing for epilepsy usually begins with a neurological and behavioral exam, and a series of blood tests. Specific neurological tests, such as an electroencephalogram (EEG), may also be done to further detect abnormal brain activity.
Treatment for Epilepsy
Medication is generally prescribed to reduce the seizures associated with epilepsy; the medication can usually be stopped after a few years, and a seizure-free life can then be lived. If the seizures are caused by a part of the brain not associated with major functions, that portion of the brain can be surgically removed. Children suffering from epilepsy can benefit from a ketogenic diet, which is high in fats and low in carbohydrates. In most cases, the ketogenic diet can be discontinued after a few years, leading to a seizure-free life.