What is epilepsy, its causes and symptoms?

Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.[1] A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep,[2] and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.

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Epilepsy is a condition that most people do not know much about. That’s why it is important to learn about seizures associated with the condition, causes, symptoms, and more.

You may have heard of epilepsy and seizures that are associated with the condition, but are you aware of what it really is? It is important to know it all in order to tackle the situation effectively.

A seizure is described as a sudden rush of uncontrolled, electrical activity in the brain that can bring about changes in movements, behaviour or feelings and also have an effect on levels of consciousness.

Seizures are mainly of two types:

1. Generalized seizures that affect the whole brain

2. Focal or partial seizures affecting a particular part of the brain.

Depending on the severity, seizures are described as mild or strong. A mild seizure may last a few seconds and often go unnoticed, whereas stronger seizures can cause spasms and muscle twitches lasting a few seconds to several minutes.

What are the causes behind seizures?

Seizures can be the result of certain health conditions. Moreover, anything having an effect on our body may also disturb the brain and cause a seizure.
Some of the many examples include medical conditions at birth such as brain defects, brain injury during birth, infection or tumor of the brain, liver or kidney failure, very high blood pressure, electrolyte imbalance etc, in addition to seizures running in families. In some cases, the cause of the seizure may be unknown, especially in the case of young children.

Heredity also has a role in some types of epilepsy. While there is a 1 percent chance of developing epilepsy in the general population before 20 years of age, having a parent with epilepsy linked to genetics increases this risk to 2 to 5 percent.

Genetics is also known to make some of the population more susceptible to seizures from environmental triggers.

What are the symptoms of a seizure?

The symptoms of a seizure can be both focal or generalized, or one can happen before the other. Moreover, the symptoms can last from a few seconds to several minutes per episode. Also, at times, symptoms occur before a person experiences seizures which include changes in vision, feeling of anxiety, dizziness and headache, out-of-body sensations, or sudden jerky movement of arms and legs.

While the seizure is in progress, some of the signs include falling, losing consciousness, uncontrollable muscle spasms, drooling or frothing at the mouth, rapid eye movements, biting your tongue, clenching teeth, sudden changes in mood, and losing bowel function etc.

Also Read: 5 things to remember if someone in your family has epilepsy

Epilepsy and seizure
Epilepsy can affect anyone and epileptic seizures can trigger anytime. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

When do you need to see a doctor?

You need to seek immediate medical help for seizure if you experience any of the following conditions:

What are the health effects of seizures?

Seizures are known to have both several short-term and long-term effects on individuals. The effects range from a drop in quality-of-life to heightened risks of mental health conditions. Although death as a direct result of seizures is rare, there is a three times higher risk of premature death in people with epilepsy than the general population. Also, the rates of bipolar disorder and depression are higher in people with epilepsy than people without the condition.

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