Epilepsy is a neurological disease that has no cure, but can be controlled. Find out more about this pathology.
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Worldwide, there are approximately 65 million people who suffer from epilepsy. In the United States of America, this is even the fourth most common neurological disease. In our country, it is estimated that there are about 40 to 70 thousand people with epilepsy. This is still one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in children, affecting 1 in 100 children.
Despite not having a cure, this is a disease that can be controlled by carrying out adequate therapy and duly recommended by a doctor. Find out more about this health issue.
Epilepsy: causes and symptoms
In general, epilepsy is a disease that manifests itself through recurrent, sudden and unpredictable seizures. At its origin lies a dysfunction of the nervous system.
Causes of epilepsy
It is not always possible to accurately determine the origin of epilepsy. However, there are several causes that can be associated with the disease, namely:
- Genetics: In some cases, epilepsy may be related to a genetic defect, such as SCN1A gene mutations or Dravet syndrome.
- Metabolic: Disorders like strokestrauma or infections can also be the cause of epilepsy.
Potentiating factors of an epileptic seizure
There are factors that can enhance the manifestation of an epileptic seizure and that, therefore, whenever possible, should be avoided by patients suffering from this pathology. Some of them are:
- stress It is anxiety
- sleep deprivation
- Abrupt discontinuation of medications
- fever and infections
- Taking medication (antidepressants, anesthetics, among others)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Very intense stimuli (bright lights, television, video, computer)
- Hormonal changes in women
Symptoms associated with seizures or epileptic seizures can vary greatly from case to case. However, some of the most common warning signs are:
- Stare, for 5 to 10 seconds
- Sudden loss of muscle strength with a fall
- Loss of consciousness with fall
- involuntary muscle movements
- Tongue or cheek biting
- muscle stiffness
- Rhythmic movements of all or part of the body
- Changes in sensitivity and senses
- Loss of urine or stool
- Confused, aimless behavior
types of crises epileptic
Despite the general symptoms presented above, there are several types of epileptic seizures, which have different manifestations. Some of them may even occur during sleep and, in certain cases, the patient may not even remember them.
- Partial epileptic seizure: In this case, the electrical discharge occurs in a reduced area of the brain surface, although it may end up reaching the entire brain. Symptoms vary depending on the area of the brain affected. Some of the possible manifestations are: involuntary movements on one side of the body, without loss of consciousness; anthill; vision of lights; among other warning signs.
- Generalized epileptic seizure: In this situation, the electrical discharge reaches the entire surface of the brain.
- Generalized tonic-clonic seizure: In this case, there is loss of consciousness associated with the fall. In addition, involuntary limb movements may occur; tongue biting; foam coming out of the mouth; It is urinary incontinence.
- Generalized Absence Crisis: This type of crisis is more frequent in children and adolescents and is characterized by an immobile posture; alienation from the surroundings; and stare, for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Myoclonic seizure: In this situation, sudden tremors of all or part of the body occur, lasting a few seconds.
- Atonic generalized seizure: In this case, there is a sudden loss of muscle tone and consciousness for a few seconds.
What to do in the face of an epileptic seizure?
If you witness an epileptic seizure, you should take some care and precautions, such as:
- remove objects from close to the person with which he can be hurt;
- put some kind of protection under the individual’s head, such as a pillow, a coat or a backpack;
- do not grab the person;
- do not put anything inside the individual’s mouth;
- place the person in the lateral safety position, if he/she does not offer resistance;
- time the duration of the crisis and contact 112 if the attack lasts more than 5 minutes.
Diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy
In addition to analyzing the patient’s clinical history, epilepsy can be diagnosed by performing radiological examinations (cranial CT or cranioencephalic MRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG).
Nowadays, the control of epilepsy and the seizures associated with it is increasingly successful, without significant side effects arising from these treatments. Here are some of the recommended treatments.
- Medication: Anti-epileptic drugs are increasingly effective; have few side effects; and prove to be able to control and avoid crises.
- Epilepsy surgery: When drugs do not work, surgery may be necessary. This intervention consists of removing the brain area that is at the origin of the epileptic seizures or part of the nerve through which the electrical discharges associated with the seizures occur.
- Ketogenic Diet: Another possible therapy is to follow this diet, which is based on the elimination of carbohydrates; the consumption of a good amount of proteins; and an increased intake of high-fat foods. Its aim is to create ketone bodies in the blood and urine capable of producing enough ketosis to treat seizures.
- Vagus nerve stimulation: In this case, a stimulator device is placed under the skin of the chest, which stimulates the vagus nerve and thus regulates the brain’s electrical activity, preventing seizures.