Epilepsy is a neurological condition, which is characterized by repeated convulsions or seizures. There is no known cure to this condition however it is treatable through medical therapy or through surgical treatment.
Epilepsy is the earliest recorded brain disorder. People with epilepsy have been feared and isolated by society throughout history. Ancient Greeks thought people with epilepsy had mystical powers. Romans treated people with epilepsy as lepers and outcasts. Other theorists believed that those who had seizures sinned against God and as a punishment were now possessed by demonic spirits.
It was early 400 B.C. when Hippocrates linked seizures to problems in the brain. This view was not accepted by his contemporaries and was pushed aside. It was not until the late 1800s that people again began to understand that epilepsy was caused by a brain malfunction.
Two European physicians, John Hughlings Jackson and W.R. Gowers, studied people with epilepsy at the National Hospital for Paralyzed and Epileptics in London and proved Hippocrates’ theory that epilepsy is a brain malfunction.
Still, the 19th century health care systems in Europe isolated people with epilepsy and forced them to live in colonies away from society. Until as late as the 1950s, people rarely talked about their epilepsy and therefore hid the disorder from the public.
While there are some recognized causes to epilepsy the vast majority of cases have no known cause. In cases where the cause is known it is called Symptomatic Epilepsy. Fewer than thirty-five percent of cases have known causes. The most common out of these are
h trauma or a high fever at birth
h excessively rough handling or shaking of infants
h certain drugs or toxins administered in large doses
h Diseases or conditions that alter or disturb the balance of blood or its chemical structure
h or diseases that damage the nerve cells in the brain
can also cause epilepsy.
However in sixty-five percent of all cases there is no known cause which is called Idiopathic Epilepsy.
The brain is a highly complex and sensitive organ as it controls and regulates all our actions. It controls all motor movements, sensations, thoughts and emotions. As well as all involuntary actions such as blinking. The brain works by sending electric charges between different nerve cells in the brain and all other parts of the body as a means of communication. The onset of a seizure is caused by abnormal brain wave activity. The brain waves start off by having an abnormal rhythm caused by excessive and synchronous nerve cell discharges. This change in brain waves triggers off the seizure. If the abnormal brain wave activity only occurs in one area of the brain it is called a partial seizure whereas if the brain wave activity affects nerve cells throughout the brain it is a generalized seizure.
Epilepsy is a common disorder as there is a one percent chance of developing it. Almost fifty per cent of cases appear before the age of ten. In the majority of cases when it id developed under the age of ten the disorder will vanish over a period of time.
The diagnosis and evaluation of Epilepsy requires the physician to know all about the seizures – when they started, the patient’s appearance before, during, and after a seizure, and any unusual behavioral occurrences. A background of the family’s health history is also commonly used. In addition, an electroencephalogram may help detect areas of increased nerve cell activity
There is no known cure to epilepsy however there is a number of treatments available. There are two main types of treatment available which are drug therapy or surgery.
Drug therapy is the most commonly used treatment. The drug treatment is fairly effective with fifty percent of those on a drug treatment will have their seizures eliminated completely. A further thirty percent will have their seizures down to a level where they can still carry on with their normal lives. The remaining twenty percent of patients are either resistant to the medication, or else require such a dose of medication that it becomes preferable to have no control over seizures at all.
Surgery is then left as an option to a minority of sufferers. In special cases the injured brain tissue can be removed through surgery which is a procedure similar to a lobotomy. This only happens when medication fails and the injured tissue is confined to one area of the brain and can be safely removed without damaging personality or functions.
There are over 40 types of seizure, ranging from seizures which can go totally unnoticed by other people right through to the classic Grand mal seizure
A common sort of generalized seizure known as Grand mal. The muscles contract, the body stiffens and then jerks uncontrollably. You may scream as your respiratory muscles contract and your lips may go blue due to lack of oxygen. You then lose consciousness, when you wake up you cannot remember anything and you need time to recover which may range from minutes to hours.
Another common type of seizure is an absence. This generalized seizure is literally an absence a momentary lapse in awareness. This type of epilepsy is most common in children and teenagers. You stop what you are doing, stare, blink or look vague for a few seconds before carrying on with what you were doing. Onlookers may think you were just daydreaming or may not notice.
Before the onset of a seizure some people may experience an aura. An aura is sensation that acts as a warning to an oncoming seizure. The type of aura varies from person to person. They can range from a strange taste to a musical sound that plays in your head. The type of aura can help identify the part of the brain that the unusual brain waves are discharged.
It is a common problem that people with epilepsy are discriminated against however this is completely unnecessary as most people can live normal lives with epilepsy. Epilepsy is a common condition that can occur for no obvious reason in anyone. The disease is in no way contagious or transmittable. Most people who develop the condition either grow out of the condition or can lead normal lives through the use of medication or surgery. Therefore those with the disease should in no way be treated any differently to others.