By Marc Courtiol
Epilepsy is a brain disorder that is the result of electrical signals being generated inside the brain. The end result of this activity is recurring seizures that can range in severity from the barely noticeable to intense convulsions. It is important to realize that anyone can have a single seizure at some point during their lifetime without necessarily having epilepsy. If a person ever has two or more otherwise unexplained seizures, however, that individual should be checked for the presence of this condition.
Sometimes people who only have mild seizures tend to believe that their epilepsy is not serious enough to warrant ongoing treatment. The fact is that even milder forms of epilepsy can be quite serious, and can even be dangerous, particularly during certain activities such as swimming or driving.
When abnormal activity in the brain cells causes seizures, a variety of different symptoms may result.
- Staring spells
- Temporary confusion
- Jerking movements of the arms and legs that is uncontrollable
- Loss of consciousness
As a general rule, people who have epileptic seizures tend to have the same type of seizures without much variance. This makes it a bit easier for friends and family members to be able to recognize the symptoms in a loved one who has this condition.
Causes of Epilepsy
Approximately 50% of the people who have been diagnosed with this disorder have an identifiable cause that contributed to its development. In the other 50%, doctors have not been able to identify a cause. When there is a cause that can be found, it falls into one of the following categories.
- Head trauma
- Dementia – especially among older adults.
- Genetic factors – some types of epilepsy run in families, and researchers have linked epilepsy to specific genes. It is believed, however, that genetic factors are only a part of the overall cause.
- Medical disorders – heart attack or stroke can result in damage to the brain, which can cause epilepsy to develop.
- Diseases – such as AIDS, viral encephalitis, and meningitis.
- Prenatal injury – if fetuses suffer brain damage while their mothers are pregnant because of an infection or other reason, or if there are oxygen deficiencies, children may develop cerebral palsy.
- Developmental disorders – such as Down syndrome and autism.
For the most part, people who have been diagnosed with epilepsy can live a life that is free of seizures simply by taking one anti-seizure medication. In addition, people with this condition are generally advised to make some lifestyle adjustments in order to best control their condition.
One of the most important things you can do is make sure you get enough sleep each night because sleep deprivation is a very strong factor in triggering seizures. You should also take your medication regularly, without missing doses. Lastly, if you have epilepsy you should avoid alcohol and drugs, as these substances have extremely negative impacts on the functions of the brain.