Epilepsy is a frightening neurological illness that can produce several debilitating physical manifestations. However, early detection might be integral to identifying and employing viable treatment options.
What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is not one specific medical condition. Also categorized as seizure disorder, this malady describes a host of potential ailments that precipitate the occurrence of abnormal brainwaves that result in seizures (convulsions) consisting of uncontrolled, sometimes violent tremors and body movements. Researchers estimate that nearly 180,000 cases of epilepsy are diagnosed each year and claim the disease is the fourth most common neurological condition. Furthermore, 30 percent of all cases are diagnosed in children. That said, the malady can impact any age grouping.
Causes of Epilepsy
In certain instances, epilepsy can be precipitated by brain damage. However, in many other patients, the reason for their condition is not known. Common brain injuries that have served as triggers include head trauma, tumors, diminished oxygen at birth, a previous history of stroke or the presence of infection. In already diagnosed individuals, seizures could be precipitated by prolonged or heavy alcohol intake, drug usage and insomnia.
Symptoms of Epilepsy
In addition to seizures, which can take many different forms, last for varying intervals and present differently from person to person, epilepsy might elicit other symptoms including confusion, loss of consciousness, anxiety and fear.
Importance Of Early Epilepsy Detection
Diagnosis of epilepsy is often confirmed by a specialized physician known as a neurologist (a doctor with expert knowledge of the brain and brain functions). A prompt diagnosis is critical to identifying the most optimal treatment methods and helping stricken individuals regain some semblance of normalcy.
A doctor might suspect epilepsy in anyone being treated for a seizure. In order to conclude that a patient is epileptic, a physician will need to make several important determinations. Proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment will hinge on said professional’s ability to identify the specific type of seizure the afflicted person typically experiences, as well as conclude what manifestations occur during the events in question.
The first action a doctor will likely execute is to perform a thorough physical examination. During this time, said professional may be able to identify specific underlying factors that could be triggering the patient’s seizures.
Should a physical not yield any definitive information, the physician in question might then order neurological tests designed to measure a patient’s cognitive and motor skills, in addition to examinations geared towards measuring brain activity. Common examinations that measure brain activity include the electroencephalogram (EEG), which gauges electrical activity within the brain, computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans.
Potential Treatment Options for Epilepsy
Specific treatment options employed will largely depend upon several different factors including the patient’s age, general health, the underlying cause and the said condition’s severity. In most instances, epilepsy is treated using one of the following methods:
There are numerous anti-seizure medications approved for the treatment of epilepsy. For some people, one or a combination of these preparations are all that is necessary to control seizures and associated manifestations. Medical marijuana is also a new, alternative form of treatment. However, due to federal and state laws, medical marijuana is still strictly controlled and should only be prescribed by a licensed medical marijuana physician and dispensary.
Surgery for Epilepsy
In more severe instances or in cases not responsive to medications, surgery might be indicated. That said, doctors are more likely to consider brain surgery as a therapeutic protocol provided the abnormal brain activity can be traced back to a small but well-defined region of the intended recipient’s brain and the procedure will not risk damaging the intended recipient’s motor skills, speech, cognitive or other vital functions.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Patients have a device implanted in their chests, which emits electrical impulses that are transported through the vagus nerve (located in the neck) into the brain.