WHAT IS EPILEPSY?
A disorder in which nerve cell activity in the brain is disturbed, causing
seizures.Epilepsy may occur as a result of a genetic disorder or an acquired brain
injury, such as a trauma or stroke.
During a seizure, a person experiences abnormal behaviour, symptoms
and sensations, sometimes including loss of consciousness. There are
few symptoms between seizures.
Epilepsy is usually treated by medication and in some cases by surgery,
devices or dietary changes.
Because epilepsy is caused by abnormal activity in the brain, seizures can
affect any process your brain coordinates. Seizure signs and symptoms
- Temporary confusion
- A staring spell
- Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
- Loss of consciousness or awareness
- Psychic symptoms such as fear, anxiety or deja vu
Symptoms vary depending on the type of seizure. In most cases, a person
with epilepsy will tend to have the same type of seizure each time, so the
symptoms will be similar from episode to episode.
Epilepsy has no identifiable cause in about half the people with the
condition. In the other half, the condition may be traced to various
- Genetic influence. Some types of epilepsy, which are categorized by
the type of seizure you experience or the part of the brain that is
affected, run in families. In these cases, it's likely that there's a genetic
influence. Researchers have linked some types of epilepsy to specific genes, but
for most people, genes are only part of the cause of epilepsy. Certain
genes may make a person more sensitive to environmental conditions
that trigger seizures.
- Head trauma. Head trauma as a result of a car accident or other
- Brain conditions. Brain conditions that cause damage to the brain,
such as brain tumors or strokes, can cause epilepsy. Stroke is a
leading cause of epilepsy in adults older than age 35.
- Infectious diseases. Infectious diseases, such as meningitis, AIDS and
viral encephalitis, can cause epilepsy.
- Prenatal injury. Before birth, babies are sensitive to brain damage that
could be caused by several factors, such as an infection in the mother,
poor nutrition or oxygen deficiencies. This brain damage can result in
epilepsy or cerebral palsy.
- Developmental disorders. Epilepsy can sometimes be associated with developmental disorders, such as autism and neurofibromatosis.
Certain factors may increase your risk of epilepsy:
- Age. The onset of epilepsy is most common in children and older
adults, but the condition can occur at any age.
- Family history. If you have a family history of epilepsy, you may be at
an increased risk of developing a seizure disorder.
- Head injuries. Head injuries are responsible for some cases of
epilepsy. You can reduce your risk by wearing a seat belt while riding
in a car and by wearing a helmet while bicycling, skiing, riding a
motorcycle or engaging in other activities with a high risk of head
- Stroke and other vascular diseases. Stroke and other blood vessel
(vascular) diseases can lead to brain damage that may trigger
epilepsy. You can take a number of steps to reduce your risk of these
diseases, including limiting your intake of alcohol and avoiding
cigarettes, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.
- Dementia. Dementia can increase the risk of epilepsy in older adults.
- Brain infections. Infections such as meningitis, which causes
inflammation in your brain or spinal cord, can increase your risk.
- Seizures in childhood. High fevers in childhood can sometimes be
associated with seizures. Children who have seizures due to high
fevers generally won't develop epilepsy. The risk of epilepsy increases
if a child has a long seizure, another nervous system condition or a
family history of epilepsy.