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Epilepsy FAQs

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What are the symptoms of Epilepsy?
Fits are of many types. The symptoms found in most of the cases are:
  • Sudden fainting & falling on ground.
  • Face turning to one side.
  • Eyes becoming glossy.
  • Clenching of fists.
  • Bending of neck to one side.
  • Foaming in the mouth.
  • Feeling of giddiness for a second.
  • Fainting with oh’–oh’/go’–go’ sound or even headache with giddiness.
  • Seizures during Menstrual period in women.
What Causes Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a disorder with many possible causes. Anything that interrupts the brain’s normal activity can lead to seizures. Epilepsy can be inherited, or it can result from a birth defect, birth or head injury, brain tumor, or an infection in the brain. In some cases, epilepsy may develop due to abnormal nerve connections that form as the brain heals after a head injury, stroke, or other problem. In about 70 percent of people with epilepsy, the exact cause cannot be determined. When the exact cause of epilepsy is not known, it is referred to as idiopathic epilepsy.

What is a seizure?
A sudden, excessive discharge of nervous–system electrical activity that usually causes a change in behavior. Closeis a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain that usually affects how a person feels or acts for a short time. Seizures are not a disease in themselves. Instead, they are a symptom of many different disorders that can affect the brain. Some seizures can hardly be noticed, while others are totally disabling.

The seizures in Epilepsy. A disorder characterized by transient but recurrent disturbances of brain function that may or may not be associated with impairment or loss of consciousness and abnormal movements or behavior. Closemay be related to a brain injury or a family tendency, but often the cause is completely unknown. The word “Epilepsy” does not indicate anything about the cause or severity of the person’s seizures.

How is epilepsy treated?
Before a person begins treatment, the first step is to ensure that the diagnosis of epilepsy is correct and to determine, if possible, the type of epilepsy and whether there are any underlying conditions that also need treatment. This will require a careful review of the person’s medical history and a neurological examination. Other tests may be recommended as well, usually including an electroencephalogram (EEG) and often a brain scan; such as a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The medical decision about how best to treat the epilepsy is based on this evaluation.
  • Antiepileptic drugs are the mainstay of treatment for most people. There are now many drugs available, and a doctor may recommend one or more of these based on several individual patient factors such as the type of epilepsy, the frequency and severity of the seizures, age, and related health conditions. After starting a medication, close monitoring is required for awhile to assess the effectiveness of the drug as well as possible side effects. Early in treatment, dosage adjustments in dosage are often required. Sometimes, because of continued seizures or significant side effects, it is necessary to change to a different drug. For about two-thirds or more of people with epilepsy receiving optimum treatment, drugs are successful in fully controlling seizures. For the remainder, although drugs may have a partial benefit, some seizures continue to occur. For some of these people, other treatment options may be considered.
  • Surgery. With certain types of partial epilepsy, especially when it can be determined that seizures consistently arise from a single area of the brain called the seizure focus, surgery to remove that focus may be effective in stopping future seizures or making them much easier to control with medication. Epilepsy surgery is most commonly performed when a seizure focus is located within the temporal lobe of the brain. This may need further advanced tests from an epileptologist -such as special sequence MRI scan even if previous simple screening MRI has been done, video EEG , SPECT or PET SCAN and neuropsychological evaluation or a functional MRI scan as required.
  • Surgery for epilepsy is available at few specialized epilepsy centres in India and abroad and is useful in carefully evaluated persons with epilepsy by a dedicated epileptologist and his team in a comprehensive manner. When this happens 5-10 % of resitiatn or difficult to treat epilepsy with focal brain disturbance , if not in an important brain area, can be surgically treated with good results for seizures reduction or total stoppage and improved quality of life.
  • Other options. Other supplemental treatments are sometimes beneficial when medications alone are inadequate and surgery is not possible. These include vagus nerve stimulation, where an electrical device is implanted to intermittently stimulate a large nerve in the neck, Alternative treatment such as specialized Yoga techniques and the ketogenic diet, a high fat, low carbohydrate diet with restricted calories.

At what age does epilepsy start? Is it hereditary?
Epilepsy primarily affects children and young adults, although anyone can get epilepsy at anytime. 20% of cases develop before the age of five, and 50% develop before the age of 25. However, epilepsy is also increasingly associated with the elderly, and there are as many cases in those 60 years of age and older as in children 10 years of age and under. Heredity usually is not a direct factor in epilepsy. But some kinds of brain wave patterns associated with seizures do tend to run in families.

How can I help someone who is having a seizure?
Stay calm don’t try to restrain or revive the person. If the person is seated, help ease him/her to the floor. Remove hazards such as hard or sharp objects that could cause injury if the person falls or knocks against them. Don’t move the person unless the area is clearly dangerous, such as a busy street. Loosen tight clothing and remove glasses. Protect airways by gently turning the person on one side so any fluid in the mouth can drain safely. Never try to force something into the person’s mouth! Don’t call an ambulance unless the seizure lasts more than five minutes, or is immediately followed by another one, or if the person is pregnant, ill, or injured. When the seizure ends, let the person rest or sleep. Be calm and reassuring because the person may feel disoriented or embarrassed.

How do the doctors know that a person has epilepsy?
A range of tests can be carried out at specialist centres to identify possible causes of epilepsy but these cannot always provide a definite diagnosis. The patient’s medical history and an eye–witness account are what doctors mainly use to decide the diagnosis. Epilepsy is a very difficult condition to diagnose correctly so it is important to see someone who has a specialist knowledge in this field as soon as possible.

How long is treatment necessary for epilepsy?
There is no easy answer to this question. Some people will need to take antiepileptic drugs all their lives. Others may only need medication for a limited time. If no seizures have happened for two to three years, then consult a doctor first about the possibility of withdrawing from the drugs don’t decide just to stop! Seizures may return or become severe and life threatening.

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