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Epilepsy: Basics And Causes
by Stephen A. Peterson 
04/17/14
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Epilepsy: Basics And Causes
© 2014

by

Stephen A. Peterson


Epilepsy is a general term used to describe a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over time (Engel, 2013). Seizures are episodes of disturbed brain activity that result in changes in an individual’s attention or behavior. The observed disorders are characterized by periodic attacks, seizures, muscle convulsions, unconsciousness, and a variety of symptoms that are as numerous as there are individuals who have epilepsy. The occurrence and observation of the phenomena referred to epilepsy were known by the early Greeks in the 4th century B.C. The Greeks described what they observed as “epilepsia” (ἐđéëáěâÜíĺéí) which translates as: “to seize or to attack”.

Several articles will be presented discussing epilepsy as it is a subject that affects roughly 1% of the population in the United States as well as the rest of the world. The Epilepsy Foundation reports there are roughly 3.2 million persons in the United States that have this disorder with about 200,000 added each year (Epilepsy Foundation of America, 2013).

Epilepsy is not a disease but a disorder only while a seizure is occurring or in progress. Epilepsy cannot be cured but seizures are controlled with medication in about 70% of the cases (Shorvon, 2011). In those instances wherein a person’s seizures do not respond to medication surgery, neurostimulation or dietary changes may be the physician’s best options. Not everyone’s epilepsy affects them throughout their life. Some individual’s situation improves so that medication is no longer required.

The cause of epilepsy for roughly 30% to nearly 40% of the cases has been identified from about 50 different conditions known to result in seizure activity, such cerebral palsy; metabolic disorders such as hypoglycemia; alcohol abuse; a blow to the head; lead or mercury poisoning; high fever; an interruption of blood supply to the brain; scar tissue from a head injury; infections of the brain or anywhere within the central nervous system; rough handling of a baby (most common is the “shaken baby syndrome”) (Brodie et. Al., 2009; Engel and Pedley, 2008; Plioplys et. al., 2007). Epilepsy may occur at any stage of a person’s life but mostly frequently begins in childhood. A multitude of physiological, psychological and sensory factors have been found to trigger seizures in those susceptible to them. Some examples are: anger, fatigue, fear, excitement, surprise, hyperventilation, hormonal changes (i.e. the onset of menstruation in girls and women or a pregnancy; nocturnal emissions in boys and men) (Shorvon, 2011). Other instances that may cause seizures are exposure to intense light or certain patterns of light, sounds, certain kinds of touches; withdrawal from drugs or alcohol (Quigg et. al., 2012).

A problem both in the past and present is the lack of information concerning epilepsy. Some people have never witnessed a seizure and what to do when one does occur in their presence. They also do not know what is occurring. When a seizure happens, the person is experiencing a problem (dysfunction) in the electrochemical activity of their brain. When this happens, a person losses control of their muscles temporarily. It is at this time the person having a seizure needs help so that they do not injure themselves seriously enough to require hospitalization. In most instances, those who have seizures the event will be brief without any injury at all.


The next part will cover what one may do should a seizure occur to help a person, symptoms and types of seizures.


References


Brodie, MJ; Elder, AT, Kwan, P (November 2009). "Epilepsy in later life". Lancet neurology 8 (11): 1019–30.

Engel, J. and Pedley, T. A.., ed. (2008). Epilepsy : a comprehensive textbook (2nd ed. ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Engel, J. (2013). Seizures and epilepsy (2nd ed. ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Epilepsy Foundation of America (2013). Epilepsy: Its causes and prevalence.

Plioplys S, Dunn DW, Caplan R (2007). "10-year research update review: psychiatric problems in children with epilepsy". J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 46 (11): 1389–402.

Quigg, M; Rolston, J; Barbaro, NM (Jan 2012). "Radiosurgery for epilepsy: clinical experience and potential antiepileptic mechanisms.". Epilepsia 53 (1): 7–15.

Shorvon, S. D.(2011). The Causes of Epilepsy: Common and Uncommon Causes in Adults and Children. Cambridge University Press.


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