Epilepsy is a disease of the central nervous system when an excitation focus appears in the cerebral cortex and causes convulsive activity. Epilepsy is a chronic disorder of the brain, manifested in people all over the world. The disease is characterized by repeated seizures manifested in the form of short-term involuntary convulsions in any part of the body (partial seizures) or throughout the body (generalized convulsions).
What may cause epilepsy?
The most common type, characteristic for 6 out of 10 people suffering from this disorder, is idiopathic epilepsy, which has no established causes. In many cases, there are genetic causes.
Epilepsy, the cause of which is known, is called secondary epilepsy, or symptomatic epilepsy. The causes of secondary epilepsy are the following:
- Brain damage in the prenatal or perinatal period (hypoxia or birth trauma, low birth weight);
- Congenital abnormalities or genetic conditions in the presence of brain development defects, which are caused by these factors;
- Severe head trauma;
- Stroke, which results in the brain not getting enough oxygen;
- a brain infection, such as meningitis, encephalitis, neurocysticercosis;
- some genetic syndromes;
- brain tumor.
What are the symptoms of epilepsy?
Epileptic seizures may be different in different patients. First of all, the symptoms depend on those areas of the brain where the pathological discharge arises and spreads. In this case, the signs will be directly related to the functions of the affected parts of the brain. There may be:
- movement disorders,
- speech disorders,
- buildup or decline of muscle tone,
- dysfunction of mental processes both in isolation and in various combinations.
An attack, as a rule, is preceded by a slight dizziness and unusual sensations, visual and auditory hallucinations. After this, a loss of consciousness occurs and convulsions may develop. Seizures can involve all muscles and can also develop only in separate muscle groups (Jackson’s epilepsy). In connection with a heavy load on the heart during seizures, cardiovascular system disorders are possible.
How to treat epilepsy?
Despite the seriousness and danger of the disease, provided that the diagnosis and treatment are timely, epilepsy can be cured in half the cases. If the diagnosis is made for the first time and a course of drug therapy is performed immediately, in two-thirds of patients with epilepsy, seizures during life are either not repeated at all or are attenuated for at least several years.
Treatment of epilepsy, depending on the type of disease, form, symptomatology and age of the patient is carried out by a surgical or conservative method.
Medical treatment of epilepsy includes several main stages:
- Differential diagnosis: allows to determine the form of the disease and the type of seizures in order to choose the right drug;
- Determination of causes: with a symptomatic (most common) form of epilepsy, a thorough examination of the brain is necessary for structural defects: aneurysms, benign or malignant neoplasms;
- Prevention of seizures: it is desirable to completely eliminate risk factors: overwork, lack of sleep, stress, hypothermia, alcohol intake;
- Cessation of epileptic status or single seizures: is made by providing emergency care and the appointment of one anticonvulsant drug or a set of medications.
Drug treatment methods include anticonvulsant drugs that reduce the frequency, or completely prevent the occurrence of seizures, drugs that depress the transmission of nervous excitement (neurotropes). Surgical treatment is carried out in the event that the cause and focus of epileptic excitation in the cerebral cortex are identified.