Posted On Nov 21, 2022
5 min read
With a very conservative estimate of 1%, around 70 million people suffer from epilepsy globally. In India, the statistics are pretty similar, and epilepsy is a lot more common than we know. Former TV fame, Shefali Zariwala once talked about her journey of recovery from epilepsy on a TV show. Veteran actor and dancer from Bollywood, Govinda also shared his journey with the condition during his fame years.
The word "epilepsy" means "seizure disorders" in the simplest of terms. It does not state anything about the cause of the person's seizures or their severity. Epilepsy is a condition of the brain where the central nervous system gets affected. The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord. Together these two organs help control all of the voluntary as well as involuntary movements of the body. In the case of epilepsy, the brain is unable to control movements, and there may be recurring, unprovoked seizures in the body. These seizures or uncontrolled movements can be violent to the body and cause serious harm.
One might wonder what exactly a seizure is, or how exactly does it happen? The brain interacts with our body and controls movement through electrical signals which are sent back and forth between the cells. A seizure is a burst of uncontrolled electrical activity between brain cells (also called neurons or nerve cells) that causes temporary abnormalities in muscle movements (stiffness, twitching, or limpness), behaviors, sensations, or states of awareness.
Seizures can be of different kinds and vary even within a person, depending on where or which muscle they occur. A seizure can be a single event due to an acute cause, such as medication. When a person has recurring seizures, this is known as epilepsy. Visit our neurology hospital in Dwarka, Delhi to know more.
It is difficult to identify epilepsy by observation, unlike a fever where physical characteristics are very clear. The doctor may diagnose a person with epilepsy if they have unprovoked seizures without any significant medical condition. Seizures can often be related to brain injury, trauma, or other inherited traits in the family. If a person suffers seizures without such causes, they may be referred to a specialist for diagnosis.
Since epilepsy is a condition of the brain, different types of epilepsy impact different regions of the brain. Therefore, brain activity maps for each of them will differ and so would the symptoms and treatments prescribed.
People with this type of epilepsy have generalized seizures. These affect both the left and right sides of the brain. Additionally, these seizures may be either motor, which involves physical movement, or non-motor, which does not involve any physical movement or motor skills.
If someone has a motor seizure, they may experience:
Weakness or limp limbs
Tense, stiff muscles
Full-body epileptic spasms
Non-motor seizures are also called absence seizures, symptoms for which may include-
Staring into space
Sudden stops in movement
People with focal epilepsy have focal seizures or seizures localized in a focused region. Unlike generalized seizures, focal seizures only affect a particular part of the brain at a time. They can later on migrate or spread from that one localized region to peripheral areas. There are some motor or movement-related symptoms for focal epilepsy as well as non-motor or unrelated to motion. The change in signal pattern at the brain level can affect the emotional state or perception, hence there are other symptoms too.
Repeated movements, like clapping or chewing.
Waves of hot or cold sensation.
Lack of movement.
Sudden changes in emotions or thoughts.
When doctors are unable to trace the brain region for the origin of the seizures in a patient, they call it unknown epilepsy. It is a rather evasive condition, presenting itself as a combined mix of seizure symptoms such as:
Stiffening and loss of consciousness.
Rapid, rhythmic jerking and convulsing.
Bluish face from lack of oxygen.
Loss of bladder and/or bowel control.
Someone with combination epilepsy has both generalized seizures and focal seizures. Therefore, they can experience a mixture of the symptoms discussed above.
Combined epilepsy is linked to Dravet syndrome, which is a rare genetic deformity, and a lifelong form of epilepsy. Since it is often misdiagnosed, people who think they or a family member may have these seizures should contact a doctor. Consult with our neurologist in Delhi to know more.
Is It A Seizure Or Epilepsy?
Not all seizures are caused by epilepsy. Some could be triggered by external factors such as:
Abnormality in blood sugar (Sudden spike or drop)
Head injury or Trauma
Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol
Allergic reaction to medicine
Light fluctuations (Photosensitivity)
While it is a possibility that the body may go into a seizure for various reasons, it is best to seek medical help if the seizure lasts more than a few minutes, or is recurrent. Your doctor can diagnose a seizure to be epileptic or not based on prior medical history, CT-Scan, MRI and a comprehensive study of blood works to rule out physical triggers of external nature. Prevention is always better than cure, and proactive healthcare with regular check-ups is the way forward. Visit our specialists at Manipal Hospital for the best preventive care and treatment options.
Consultant - Neurology
Manipal Hospitals, Delhi