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Epilepsy (and Epileptic Seizures)
 
While epilepsy is a debilitating condition, people with epilepsy can lead normal lives; sometimes the condition goes away with age or may be curable by a temporal lobe operation. Here are some of the things you need to know:

What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that is characterized by recurrent seizures. A person may be diagnosed as having epilepsy if they had had at least two seizures that were not provoked by a known cause such as sleep deprivation or low blood sugar level. Epilepsy may be due to prenatal or antenatal cerebral injury, brain lesions, tumors or trauma, neurological infection or very often, due to an unknown cause.

What is a seizure?
The functioning of the nervous system is governed by tiny electrical impulses that travel between our nerve synapses. Sometimes chemical imbalances in the brain might trigger a sudden, high amount of abnormal electrical activity in the brain; this is called a seizure. A seizure may manifest itself as a momentary loss of awareness or violently as a wild thrashing of the extremities. Recurrent seizures are a symptom of epilepsy and must be diagnosed and treated with efficiency; Holy Family Hospital's high-end equipment and well-qualified neurologists enable expert diagnosis and treatment.

Causes
Epilepsy may be due to a large number of possible causes; in infants it is may be caused by a birth defect such as lack of oxygen available to the baby during delivery, in adults epilepsy may be due to an injury, abscess or infection on the brain. Epilepsy may be caused due to abnormal electrical impulses or an imbalance in the neurotransmitters or a combination of neurological problems; chronic liver or kidney patients may also develop epilepsy. However, the cause of a seizure is often unknown.

Symptoms
Being a neurological problem, seizure symptoms are often hard to identify. However, epilepsy patients sometimes know when they are about to convulse. Parents and family members should watch their children for slight jerks, blinking eyes, shaking hands, feet, a twitching face or any such signs of irregular movement; parents often fail to pick up such symptoms until they get worse. Care takers of patients should also be very vigilant and ensure that sleep and medication is on schedule.

Treatment
Years of medical research have presented drugs that can now control epilepsy in approximately 80% of patients; even seizures can be controlled within seconds by using an easy nasal spray. However, for epilepsy patients, it's important not to deviate from taking medication as prescribed and getting adequate sleep; seizures are often provoked by sleep deprivation so persons living with epilepsy are advised to obtain quality sleep, as far as possible. Epilepsy can also be controlled with the help of a ketogenic diet a diet rich in fats and low in carbohydrates wherein the body is forced to burn the fat and produce ketogenic bodies that are anti-epileptic in nature. Vagus nerve stimulation, via a gamma knife, is effective in seizures that are not well-controlled by medication. People with epilepsy are at special risk for two life-threatening conditions: status epilepticus and sudden unexplained death.

What can you do
If you see a person having a seizure:
  • - Keep calm & help the patient to lie down
  • - Remove glasses (if any) and loosen tight clothing (ties, top collar button)
  • - Turn the patient on to the side so that no saliva collects in the throat
  • - Remove hard objects around which may hurt the patient
  • - Keep something soft beneath the patient's head
  • - Don't crowd around the patient, allow free circulation of air
  • - Don't force anything between the patient's teeth, don't restrain convulsing limbs, don't offer anything to eat or drink till patient is fully conscious.
Call a doctor or ambulance if:
  • - The patient is injured or convulsions last more than 10 minutes or he/she repeatedly has convulsions.
  • - The patient is unconscious for a long time.
  • - The patient has difficulty breathing even after a convulsion is over.

Note: The information provided here is for informational purposes only; this advice is not to be used as expert medical opinion. Please visit Holy Family Hospital regularly to check your risk levels and consult our neurologists for a medical advice.

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