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Epilepsy

  • What is Epilepsy?

    Epilepsy, also known as seizure disorder, is a neurological condition that affects the central nervous system. It is often diagnosed after someone has suffered at least 2 seizure episodes not linked with any known medical condition. These seizures usually occur when the electrical activity in the brain is disturbed. 

    Seizures are dangerous and need treatment. There are different types of epilepsy, including:

    • Idiopathic generalised epilepsy: Generally appears during childhood and is often linked with a strong family history of epilepsy
    • Idiopathic partial epilepsy: The mildest type of epilepsy, begins in childhood and may be outgrown by puberty
    • Symptomatic generalised epilepsy: Caused by brain damage during birth or inherited brain diseases
    • Symptomatic partial epilepsy: Appears in adulthood, caused by localised brain abnormality
  • Only a minority of epilepsy cases present clear causes. The most common causes of epilepsy are linked with trauma or injury to the brain. These include brain damage at birth or from accidents during adolescence, brain tumours, brain infections (eg. meningitis and encephalitis), scarring (sclerosis) of brain tissue, and strokes. In addition, a strong family history of epilepsy increases the risks of having the disease. 

    Certain factors can also trigger seizures in people with epilepsy. These include forgetting to take seizure medications, heavy alcohol consumption, drug abuse (including cocaine, ecstasy), lack of sleep (insomnia) and use of drugs that interfere with seizure medications.

  • Seizures are the most common warning signs of epilepsy. There are 2 main types of seizures:

    • Focal (partial) seizure – symptoms include:
      1. Disturbance to visual, sensory and motor (movement) abilities 
      2. Loss of consciousness
    • Generalised seizures – symptoms include:
      1. Difficulty breathing and incontinence (inability to control bowel movement or urination)
      2. Involuntary twitching of arms and legs (1 – 2 minutes)
      3. Loss of consciousness (30 seconds – 5 minutes)
      4. Tongue biting
    • Medical treatment includes the use of anti-epileptic medication as a first-line treatment
    • Preventative treatment:
      1. Avoid stress
      2. Have enough sleep
      3. Take medication as prescribed
    • Surgical treatment (most likely brain surgery) follows if medications are ineffective in controlling the seizures 
  • There might be some side effects to medications used to treat epilepsy. These include:

    • Blurred vision
    • Hair loss
    • Hand tremours
    • Sleepiness, dizziness and tiredness
    • Weight gain
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