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Epilepsy

  • What is Epilepsy?

    Epilepsy, also known as seizure disorder, is a neurological condition that affects the central nervous system. It is often diagnosed after suffering at least 2 seizure episodes not associated with any known medical condition. These seizures usually occur when electrical activity in the brain is disturbed. 

    Seizures are dangerous and require treatment. There are different types of epilepsy, including:

    • Idiopathic generalised epilepsy – usually appears during childhood and is often linked with a strong family history of epilepsy
    • Idiopathic partial epilepsy – the mildest type of epilepsy, which begins in childhood and may be outgrown by puberty
    • Symptomatic generalised epilepsy – caused by brain damage during birth or inherited brain diseases
    • Symptomatic partial epilepsy – appears in adulthood and is caused by a contained brain abnormality
  • Few epilepsy cases have clear causes. The most common causes of epilepsy are linked to brain trauma or injury. These include brain damage at birth or from accidents during adolescence, brain tumours, brain infections (eg. meningitis and encephalitis), scarring or 'sclerosis' (hardening) of brain tissue, and strokes. A strong family history of epilepsy also increases the chances of getting seizures. 

    Certain factors can also trigger epileptic seizures. These include forgetting to take seizure medications, consuming excessive alcohol, drug abuse (such as cocaine and ecstasy), lack of sleep (insomnia) and using drugs that interfere with seizure medications.

  • Seizures are the most common warning signs of epilepsy. There are 2 main types of seizures:

    • Focal seizures – symptoms include:
      1. Disturbance to visual, sensory and motor abilities
      2. Loss of consciousness
    • Generalised seizures – symptoms include:
      1. Difficulty in breathing and incontinence
      2. Involuntary twitching of arms and legs (1 – 2 minutes)
      3. Loss of consciousness (30 seconds – 5 minutes)
      4. Tongue biting
  • Medical treatment includes the use of anti-epileptic medication as a first-line treatment.

    • Preventative treatment:
      1. Avoid stress
      2. Have enough sleep
      3. Take medication as prescribed
    • Surgical treatment (usually brain surgery) may be advised if medications are not effective in controlling seizures 
  • There might be some side effects from epilepsy medications, including:

    • Blurred vision
    • Hair loss
    • Shaking of hands
    • Sleepiness, giddiness and tiredness
    • Weight gain
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