Epilepsy and Seizures
Head | Neurology | Epilepsy and Seizures (Symptom)
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain sometimes signal abnormally. Neurons normally generate electrochemical impulses that act on other neurons, glands, and muscles to produce human thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Epilepsy is characterized by a long term risk of recurrent seizures. These seizures may present in a number of different ways. Seizure types are organized firstly according to whether the source of the seizure within the brain is localized (partial or focal onset seizures) or distributed (generalized seizures). Partial seizures are further divided on the extent to which consciousness is affected. If it is unaffected, then it is a simple partial seizure; otherwise it is a complex partial (psychomotor) seizure.
In epilepsy, the normal pattern of neuronal activity becomes disturbed, causing strange sensations, emotions, and behaviour, or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. During a seizure, neurons may fire as many as 500 times a second, much faster than normal. In some people, this happens only occasionally; for others, it may happen up to hundreds of times a day.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Epilepsy is usually controlled, but not cured, with medication. However, over 30% of people with epilepsy do not have seizure control even with the best available medications. Surgery may be considered in difficult cases. Not all epilepsy syndromes are life long – some forms are confined to particular stages of childhood. Epilepsy should not be understood as a single disorder, but rather as syndromes with vastly divergent symptoms, all involving episodic abnormal electrical activity in the brain and numerous seizures.