What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects the central nervous system. Epilepsy is often diagnosed after one has suffered at least two seizure episodes not associated with any known medical condition. These seizures usually occur when the electrical activity in the brain is disturbed. 

Seizures is life-threatening and treatment is required. There are different types of epilepsy, including:

  • Idiopathic Generalised Epilepsy - generally appears during childhood and is often associated with a strong family history of epilepsy
  • Idiopathic Partial Epilepsy - the mildest type of epilepsy 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, caused by localised brain abnormality

Only a minority of epilepsy cases have clear causes. The causes of epilepsy include brain damage at birth or from accidents during adolescence, brain tumours, brain infections such as meningitis and encephalitis, scarring or “sclerosis” of brain tissue, and strokes. In addition, a strong family history of epilepsy increases the susceptibility to the disease. 

Certain factors can also trigger seizures in people with epilepsy, including skipping seizure medications, heavy alcohol consumption, drug abuse (including cocaine, ecstasy), sleep deprivation and use of drugs that interfere with seizure medications.

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

  • Focal seizure - symptoms include:
    • Disturbance to visual, sensory and motor abilities
    • Loss of consciousness
  • Generalised seizures - symptoms include:
    • Difficulty breathing and incontinence
    • Involuntary twitching of arms and legs lasting from 1 to 2 minutes
    • Loss of consciousness lasting from 30 seconds to 5 minutes
    • Tongue biting
  • Use of anti-epileptic medication is the first-line treatment
  • Preventive treatment:
    • Avoiding stress
    • Having enough sleep
    • Taking medication as prescribed
  • Surgical treatment most likely brain surgery follows if medications are ineffective in controlling seizures

There might be some side effects to medications used to treat epilepsy. These include:

  • Sleepiness, giddiness and fatigue
  • Weight gain

Related Specialties