Epilepsy is a central nervous system (neurological) disorder in which a person has unprovoked, recurrent seizures over time. Seizures are episodes of uncontrolled and abnormal firing of brain cells that may cause brief changes in movement, behavior, feeling, or awareness.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that epilepsy affects 65 million people around the world. In the United States, it affects about 3.4 million people, including 3 million adults and 470,000 children. It occurs slightly more in men than in women.
There’s no once-and-for-all cure for epilepsy, but the disorder can be managed with medications and other strategies.
In about half
the people with the condition, the exact cause of epilepsy is not known. In the
other half, the condition may be traced to various factors, including:
- Genetic influence
linked some types of epilepsy to specific genes, which may make a person more
sensitive to environmental conditions that trigger seizures.
- Head trauma
injury brought about by a car accident or other traumatic injury can cause
- Brain conditions
Brain conditions such as brain tumors, strokes, dementia, transient ischemic attack (TIA), and abnormal blood vessels in the brain, can cause epilepsy.
- Infectious diseases
diseases, such as meningitis, AIDS and viral encephalitis, can cause epilepsy.
- Prenatal injury
such as an infection in the mother, poor nutrition or oxygen deficiencies before
a baby’s birth can damage his or her brain and result in epilepsy or cerebral
- Developmental disorders
Epilepsy can sometimes be associated with developmental disorders, such as autism and neurofibromatosis
There are two types of seizure: partial seizures and general
seizures. Symptoms differ from person to person and according to the type of
Focal (partial) seizures
Simple partial seizure:
- alterations to sense of taste,
smell, sight, hearing, or touch
- tingling, dizziness and flashing
- involuntary jerking of limbs
Complex partial seizures:
or losing awareness or consciousness
repetitive movements like lip smacking or eye blinking
a short loss of awareness.
- losing balance and falling down
repeated, jerky muscle movements of the face, neck, and arms.
the arms and legs.
- stiffening of the body
- loss of bladder or bowel control
- biting of the tongue
- loss of consciousness
The diagnosis is
based primarily on your symptoms that are described. Usually, the physical exam
and neurological examination are normal between spells. An adult who
experiences a seizure for the first time will be evaluated with a head scan and
blood tests to look for chemical imbalances. Your doctor will order further
- Electroencephalogram (EEG).
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Functional MRI (fMRI).
- Positron emission tomography (PET).
- Single-photon emission
computerized tomography (SPECT).
- Neuropsychological tests.
Along with your test results, your
doctor may use a combination of analysis techniques to help pinpoint where in
the brain seizures start:
- Statistical parametric mapping (SPM).
- Curry analysis.
- Magnetoencephalography (MEG).
Doctors generally begin by treating epilepsy with medication. If
medications don’t treat the condition, doctors may propose surgery or another
type of treatment.
Anti-seizure medications, also called anti-epileptic medications, can reduce the number of seizures you have.
With epilepsy surgery, the area of the brain that causes seizure
activity can be removed or altered.
from medications and surgery, these potential therapies offer an alternative
for treating epilepsy:
- Vagus nerve stimulation.
- Ketogenic diet.
- Deep brain stimulation
Keywords: epilepsy, seizure.