This year, International Epilepsy Day is all about raising awareness about the disease and what it means for the daily lives of people who deal with it. Sharing information and research is key to better understanding the disease and avoiding stigmatisation. But, are you already familiar with epilepsy? Keep on reading to get more information about it.
What Exactly Does Epilepsy Mean?
Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder in which neurons sometimes signal abnormally and cause seizures. Neurons normally generate electrical and chemical signals that act on other neurons, glands and muscles. They are responsible for producing human thoughts, feelings and actions.
Nevertheless, according to US NINDS, during a seizure, many neurons signal at the same time. They could do it as many as 500 times per second – much faster than normal. This surge of excessive electrical activity happening at the same time causes involuntary movements, sensations, emotions, and behaviors and the temporary disturbance of normal neuronal activity may cause a loss of awareness.
Epilepsy is usually diagnosed after a person has two or more unprovoked seizures separated by at least 24 hours. This disease is one of the most common conditions affecting the brain. Indeed, about 3.4 million people (both children and adults) in the United States have active epilepsy.
Types And Causes
There are many different types of epilepsies, resulting from a variety of causes:
● Some people may have convulsions and lose consciousness. Some of them have seizures very infrequently, while others may experience hundreds of seizures every day.
● Others may simply stop what they are doing, have a brief lapse of awareness, and stare into space for a short period.
For 2 out of 3 people, the cause of epilepsy is unknown. This type of epilepsy is called cryptogenic or idiopathic. However, some known causes of epilepsy could include:
1 | Stroke.
2 | Brain tumor.
3 | Brain infection from parasites (malaria, neurocysticercosis), viruses (influenza, dengue, Zika) and bacteria.
4 | Traumatic brain/head injury.
5 | Loss of oxygen to the brain (e.g. during birth).
6 | Some genetic disorders (e.g. Down syndrome).
7 | Other neurologic diseases (e.g. Alzheimer).
Assessment And Diagnosis
A doctor makes a epilepsy diagnosis based on symptoms, physical signs and the results of specific tests. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, these tests could be: electroencephalogram (EEG), computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). If you experience a seizure for the first time, we recommend you to talk to a health care provider.
If I Already Have Epilepsy, How Can I Manage It?
You can learn how to control seizures and keep an active and fulfilling life. Above all, just follow some basic tips:
1 | Take your medicine.
2 | Talk to your doctor when you have any doubts or concerns.
3 | Recognize seizure triggers (flashing/bright lights).
4 | Keep a record of your seizures.
5 | Get enough sleep.
6 | Lower stress.