November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month!
Epilepsy is neurological disorder that causes seizures , unusual behavior, sensations, and even loss of awareness (Mayo Clinic). Epileptic seizures vary in intensity and presentation. They occur when a sudden surge of electrical activity begins in the brain. Some people will stare blankly during a seizure, others will twitch uncontrollably. There are a variety of types of seizure one can suffer, but most often an individual will experience the same kind over and over.
One type of seizure is a focal seizure. This occurs when abnormal activity occurs in one area of the brain. This is further broken down into two subcategories. Formerly called a simple partial seizure, a focal seizure without loss of consciousness is just that. Emotions may change and senses may be compromised. This can also be accompanied with involuntary movement or spontaneous sensations such as tingling, dizziness, and flashing lights (Mayo Clinic). The second subcategory of focal seizures are focal seizures with impaired awareness (formerly called complex partial seizures). This type of seizure involves a change or loss of consciousness and awareness. In this case the person may have a blank stare, stop responding normally to the environment, and perform repetitive movements.
When abnormal electrical activity is affecting the entire brain, it can cause what is known as a generalized seizure. There are six types of general seizures.
Absence seizures: this type of seizure most often affects children. It causes subtle body movements, staring into space, and loss of awareness. They often occur in clusters.
Tonic Seizures: this causes muscles to stiffen. Most likely this affects the back, arms, and legs causing the person to fall.
Atonic Seizures: also known as a “drop seizure,” this causes loss of control over muscles and a sudden collapse.
Clonic Seizures: usually affects the neck, face, and arms by causing repeated, jerking muscle movements.
Myoclonic Seizures: sudden onset twitching of the arms and legs.
Tonic-Clonic Seizures: an abrupt loss of consciousness, body stiffening, shaking, and occasionally tongue biting and loss of bladder control.
If you encounter someone suffering from a seizure, you should be sure to do the following: carefully roll the person to one side, place something soft under their head, clear away dangerous objects, stay with them, time the duration of the seizure, and observe details of the seizure. You should not restrain the person or put fingers or objects in their mouth.
For about half of the people with Epilepsy, there is no traceable cause. For the other half, some of the factors that influenced the development on this condition are genetic history, head trauma, brain damage (caused by strokes or tumors most often), infectious diseases (meningitis, AIDS, etc.), prenatal injury, or developmental disorders. There is no cure for epilepsy, but many people are able to decrease the intensity and frequency of their epileptic seizures by taking anti-seizure medication. For many people, anti-seizure medication can be reduced or even discontinued after a few years of no seizures. For people whose seizures cannot be managed with anti-seizure medication, surgery may be an option to remove the part of the brain that is causing the seizures. This is only an option when the seizures “originate in a small, well defined area of [the] brain…[and] the area in [the] brain to be operated on doesn’t interfere with vital functions such as speech, language, motor function, vision or hearing” (Mayo Clinic).