Epileptic seizures are commonly traced to brain injury or family history. About 0.5% to 2% of the population is likely to suffer an epileptic seizure at some point in time. When the delicate balance of electrical activity in the brain is disturbed, a person suffers seizures. When there are more than a couple of episodes of seizures, it is a condition of epilepsy. Status epilepticus refers to continuous or intermittent seizure activity for more than 5 minutes without recovery of consciousness.
In a typical epileptic seizure, the neuronal activity is hampered bringing on convulsions, muscle spasms and possible loss of consciousness. Each person has a different threshold of resistance to seizures. Inherited condition of neurological disorder can lead to electrical instability causing epileptic seizures. Those dependent on alcohol or drugs may experience seizures during withdrawal. Rarely is a brain tumor the cause of epilepsy. Brain injury is a possible cause of epilepsy. This can be due to a birth defect or head injury or infection such as meningitis. Sometimes a person may experience idiopathic epilepsy where there is no clear cause for the seizures.
Diagnosis of epilepsy can be made with investigative tests such as EEG, CT scan or MRI scan. Anti-epilepsy drugs (AEDs) can control the seizures though there is no cure. These medications help the patient in leading a better quality of life. AEDs are prescribed after studying the person's nature of seizures, general health, age and gender. These medications must be taken in prescribed doses to maintain desired level in the body to prevent further seizures. When some possible triggers have been identified for epileptic seizures, the patient must try and avoid them. These triggers could range from emotional disturbance to lack of sleep. The Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS) has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of epilepsy. The VNS is surgically implanted into the chest, near the collarbone. It is a small device, much like a pacemaker that sends weak electrical impulses to the brain through the vagus nerve. These electrical signals are helpful in preventing sudden electrical bursts in the brain that trigger off an epileptic attack.
Paroxysm refers to sudden fits or outbursts. These paroxysmal attacks are short and usually frequent. Paroxysmal attacks are associated with pertussis, encephalitis, heat trauma, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. A paroxysm is most often triggered by anxiety, neck flexion and anger.
EEG or Electroencephalography is a diagnostic test that measures the brain's electrical activity. This non-invasive test is used to detect any abnormality in the brain's electrical impulses. Nearly 16 - 25 electrodes are placed over different areas of your head and they record electrical activity. A study of the pattern of these electrical activities of the brain help in detecting any abnormality. Electroencephalography helps in detecting causes of seizures, epilepsy or degenerative diseases.
It helps in evaluating head injury, tumor or infections. But an EEG cannot help diagnose mental illness. Sleep disorders such as narcolepsy can be evaluated with the help of EEG. An EEG helps confirm brain death in comatose patients. Brain tumors, encephalitis, meningitis, Parkinson's disease or cerebral infarct can be detected with EEG test.
The patient will need to lie down with eyes closed during the EEG test. Sometimes the doctor may ask the patient to breathe deeply or look at bright flickering lights. Sometimes the patient may also be asked to go to sleep. The patient must not consume caffeine, tea, cola or chocolate for about 8 hours prior to the EEG test. The hair must be free of oils, creams or sprays. Medications such as tranquilizers, muscle relaxants and anti-epilepsy medicines might need to be discontinued for a short period.
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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: March 21, 2019