Epilepsy is a disease that affects the brain by causing the cells that make it up, called neurons, to activate abnormally, leading to the appearance of a series of symptoms that mainly include sudden movements accompanied by an alteration in the state of consciousness.
It is estimated that there are about 50 million people with epilepsy in the world. This disease can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age and socioeconomic status.
Causes of epilepsy
Epilepsy is a disease that often does not have an identifiable cause.
In some people, seizures can be a complication of brain damage caused by trauma, infection, tumors, cerebrovascular accidents, or even by the use of some drugs or substances of abuse. This is what is known as secondary epilepsy.
Symptoms of epilepsy
The impairment of brain function that characterizes epilepsy is manifested mainly by episodes known as epileptic seizures.
These are characterized by the presence of sudden involuntary movements, in the form of jerks that involve the whole body. During the same there is the affectation of the state of consciousness, being able to present urine emission due to relaxation of the sphincters.
After these episodes, the person enters a lethargy or drowsy state that is followed by sleep, it is usually not possible to remember what happened. It is common that after these crises there is muscle pain and headache. There may also be manifestations due to trauma that occurred when falling to the ground due to loss of consciousness.
This is the most common form of epilepsy. However, there are other types in which these movements occur while the person is conscious, or it may happen that the person remains immobile and does not respond to stimuli, which is known as absence crisis.
Why do epileptic seizures occur?
The main cause of epileptic seizures is the suspension of treatment or the forgetting of some taking of the medicine in people affected by this condition.
Other factors that can favor these crises are the presence of fever, sleep deprivation, going through situations that lead to high emotional stress, the intake of alcoholic beverages or the consumption of drugs of abuse.
How is epilepsy diagnosed
The manifestations of epilepsy are very characteristic, so the narration of the seizures is sufficient to establish the diagnosis. In the inter-seizure stage, the clinical examination of people with epilepsy is likely to be completely normal.
In these patients, a series of special studies can be carried out that seek to evaluate brain electrical activity. These include the electroencephalogram, which can show electrical alterations in specific areas of the brain, which is necessary to establish specific treatment.
Another study that must be carried out is magnetic resonance imaging. This allows to obtain a very detailed image of the nervous system that is useful to identify other causes of seizures, such as tumors, cerebrovascular accidents, malformations, aneurysms or even infectious processes of the nervous system.
What to do if a friend or relative has a seizure of epilepsy?
Faced with an epileptic crisis, the first thing to do is stay calm.
Try to help the victim lie on the ground on one side, thus avoiding injury, especially to the head. Do not interfere with the movements you make and do not try to put anything in your mouth, this will not help at all and rather may cause injuries or make it difficult for you to breathe.
Wait for the crisis to end, it is not necessary to do breathing maneuvers or go immediately to the emergency room. Once the person is finished they will be sleepy and confused, help them go home or to a place where they finish recovering. You will surely remain asleep after the crisis for several hours.
It is important to check if you are receiving the treatment at the dose and frequency of taking indicated by your treating doctor, in order to avoid a new episode from occurring.
Is it possible to have quality of life when suffering from epilepsy?
People with epilepsy can have a normal life without seizures when they receive the appropriate treatment, it is even possible that many of them manage to stop treatment and remain without symptoms. Having epilepsy is not a reason not to live your life to the fullest.
Only 3 out of 10 patients do not manage to adequately control their disease, which may warrant more supervision and adjustments in medication on a regular basis. This group may even benefit from surgical treatment.
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