Epilepsy is a disorder that causes seizures. Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. There are many causes for seizures such as fever, alcoholism, head trauma, electrolyte imbalances, hyperventilation, sleep deprivation, and certain medications. Epilepsy can be another cause for the abnormal brain activity.
Over 2 million people have seizure disorders, About 120 per 100,000 people will have newly diagnosed seizure disorder. Of these, about 30% are under the age of thirty.
In epilepsy, there are different types of seizures that can be experienced. Partial seizures involve one side of the brain and one side of the body. Generalized seizures affect the entire brain and both sides of the body. These seizures can be either simple or complex. With simple seizures, there is no loss of consciousness. Complex seizures cause loss of consciousness or awareness. There are also tonic-clonic seizures ( grand mal ). In this type of seizure, you have two phases. The first phase is the tonic phase that causes increased muscle contractions. This lasts less than one minute. In the clonic phase, the muscle contractions decrease and jerking movements begin. Profuse sweating and hyperventilation also occur.
Status epilepticus can also occur. This is when seizure activity lasts for more than 30 minutes or there are repeated seizures with no recovery in between. This is always considered a medical emergency and is associated with increased risk of death or permanent disability if not treated immediately.
If you are experiencing any type of seizure, you must see a doctor right away. There are many very good anti-seizure medications that can help control the abnormal activity in the brain. These medications should be taken exactly as prescribed and may require adjustments in dosing periodically. You must visit with your doctor about safety issues such as employment or driving a motor vehicle. Always keep a log of seizure activity to present to your doctor at every visit. Most people with seizure disorders live a relatively normal life.