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The brain comprises nerves and nervous tissue. It sends signals through the nerves and the spinal cord to every part of the body using electrical impulses. In epilepsy, there is a surge of electrical activity in different parts of the body.
This leads to a variety of symptoms, usually a seizure, but can be as inconspicuous as a loss of attention during an activity.
About 65 million people worldwide have epilepsy. Anyone can develop epilepsy as it affects both males and females of all races, ethnic backgrounds and ages. But most common in the following people:
• Children under two.
• The elderly.
• People with a family history of epilepsy.
• People who had seizures as children.
• People who have had a stroke.
Epilepsy is NOT contagious. When you have a single seizure episode, it does not mean you have epilepsy. However, two episodes of unprovoked seizures not due to a known and reversible medical condition suggest epilepsy. Epilepsy is a lifelong disorder.
Seizures can either affect one part of the brain (known as focal seizures) and sometimes affect the whole brain (generalised seizures). Seizures may last from a few seconds to several minutes.
Epilepsy has no single cause in some people. In others, it is attributed to a few factors which may include genetic abnormalities, brain tumour, head injury, infections, injury at birth, brain diseases like a stroke, AIDS, etc.
Symptoms seen may include uncontrollable jerking, repeated twitching of one or both limbs, staring uncontrollably, loss of awareness or confusion, loss of continence, alterations in the sense of taste, smell, sight and tingling sensations, sudden bouts of chewing or repetitive behaviour, and periods of unusual behaviour.
An epileptic attack may be triggered by stress, bright lights, loud noise, illness, caffeine and certain drugs, and a lack of sleep. Having a seizure at certain times, like while driving or operating equipment may lead to serious injury or death.
Treatment is only carried after a due consultation and examination. An electrical “analysis” of the brain (Electroencephalogram or EEG) is carried out alongside blood tests to make a diagnosis.
Other treatment options include avoiding triggers, diet modification and surgery.