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Disease Awareness

20 Questions On Epilepsy

  • April 24, 2014
  • 9 min read


1. What is epilepsy ? What are the different types of epilepsies ?
Answer: Epilepsy is a disorder that briefly interrupts the normal electricals activity of the brain. In people with epilepsy, too many neurons fire at one time, causing an “electrical storm” within the brain, which results in physical changes called seizures. Seizures may be convulsion, short periods of uncounsciousness, distortion of the senses, or loss of control over movement. There are more than 30 different types of seizures. Although they can sometimes look frightening, they rarely cause ant damage to the brain.

The different types of epilepsies are:

a. Petit Mal Seizures

  • Mostly during childhood
  • It has very few or no body movement
  • During the episode, patients just blinks his eyes and subsequently looses awareness about the surroundings.

b. Grand Mal Seizures (Generalized Tonic clonic Seizures)

  • Violent muscle contractions affecting the whole body with loss of consciousness & frothing from the mouth are the main symptoms.
  • The breathing stops temporarily
  • Tongue or cheek biting is another danger in this type of seizures.

c. Single Focal Seizures

  • Muscles contractions of a specific body part & abnormal sensations occur
  • Feeling of nausea, sweating, skin flusing and dilation of pupils can also occur.

d. Partial Complex Seizures

  • Sweating
  • Skin flushing
  • Change in personality emotions

e. Febrile Convulsions

  • Seizures or fits in young children are called Febrile Convulsions
  • Usually this occurs after a child has a high-temperature following a fever.
  • This does not cause brain damage or lead to epileptic attack when thhey grow up.
  • This stops by the child completes 6 years. Dont panic when your child has febrile convulsion.
  • Seek immediate medical help.

2. What are the symptoms of epilepsy ?
Answer: Apart from the symptoms described above nonspecific symtoms or signs may occur along with the seizures.
They include:

  • Headache
  • Changes in mood or energy level
  • Dizziness & fainting
  • Confusion & memory loss.
  • An aura is experienced by few patients jus tbefore a generalized seizure.

3. How can we diagonose epilepsy ?
Answer: We can change diagonose epilepsy by:

  • History of recurrent seizures of any type.
  • A physical examination.
  • An electroencephalograph {EEG}, a reading of the electrical activity in the brain, head CT or a MRI scan.

4. How can epilepsy be treated ?
Answer: Neurologist, pediatric neurologist, pediatricians. neurosurgeons, internist and family physicians all provide treatment for epilepsy. Specialized care for people whose seizures are difficult to control is available in large medical centers and neurological clinics.Epilepsy can be treated with precautions, which helps avoiding the factors triggering an attack Anti-epileptic Medicines prescribed by doctors.

5. Which complications follow after prologed or repeated convulsoins?
Answer: Injury from a fall, biting the tongue, accidents due to fall while driving or operating any machine is dangerous complications of a seizures. Side effects of medicines can also developed complications.

6. Which are the precautions to be taken by epilepsy patients ?

  • Don�t forget to take your medicines regularly.
  • Have periodical medical checkups.
  • Keep an identity card with you while traveling.
  • Before taking any new treatment, tell your doctor about epilepsy.

7. How can I know that a person is having seizure ?
Answer: Seizure may appear as any of the following:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Unusual, sudden body movement such as stiffening and jerking.
  • A convulsion with total loss of consciousness
  • Temporarily altered behaviour
  • Staring and blinking
  • A frightened look ro lack of response
  • A strange felling or unusual taste
  • Lip smacking & chewing
  • Walking around without any purpose
  • Fiddling with cloths / objects nearby
  • Speaking in an unintelligible way.

8. How often so seizures occur ?
Answer: As mentioned earlier there are over 30 types of seizures and the duration, frequency and severity of seizures varies according to the type of seizure. Thus, some people may experience very frequent seizures are easily controlled by drug therapies, while others may continue regardless of the medication that is tried.

9. What causes epilepsy ?
Answer: There is no single cause of epilepsy. Many factors are injure the nerve cells in the brain or the way the nerve cells communicate with each other. Head injuries, strokes, brain, encephalitis, lead poisoning and injuries during childhood can cause epilepsy.
However, in 70% of the cases the cause iss not known. there is probably a genetic basis of epilepsy as well. Some factors attributed to the cause of epilepsy are:

  • Abnormalities or injuries, turmor, inflammation or infections of the brain called meningitis and encephalitis.
  • Family history of epilepsy or seizures
  • Congenital defects and prenatal {near the time of birth} injuries.
  • Complication of Diabetes Mellitus
  • Kidney Failure
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Use or withdrawal of alcohol or drugs
  • Disorders affecting the blood Vessels
  • Degenerative disorders {senile dementia Alzheimer type, or similar or organic brain syndromes}
  • Acute severe infections in any part of the body
  • Complications of AIDS or other immune disorders.

10. What are the common triggers of seizures ?
Common seizure triggers include:

  • Forgetting or failing to take prescribed medication
  • Illness with a high temperature
  • Diarrhea and vomiting {which know to prevent the absorption of any medication}
  • Fatigue
  • Over excitement
  • Hysteria
  • Stress
  • Fear
  • Loud Noises and bright lights. General anesthetics can also bring on a seizure for some people.

11. How long do the seizures last ?
Depending on the type of seizure, they can last from a few seconds to several minutes. tn rare cases, seizures can last for may hours. For, example, tonic-clonic seizures typically last for 1-7 minutes. Absense seizures may only last a few seconds, which complex partial seizures range from 30 seconds to 2-3 minutes. “Status Epileptic” refers to prolonged seizures that can be a serious medical condition.

12. What can I do to help if someone is experience a seizure ?
Answer: When encountering any type of seizure, it is most important that you should keep calm and provide supports to the patients by protecting him from physical injury until full awarness returns. You cannot stop a seizure run its course. One of the dos and donts are:

  • Shift person having the seizure into a reclining position on the floor or a flat suface and loosen clothing
  • Put something soft and flat under the head
  • Turn the person gently onto one side to prevent choking, and keep the airway clear
  • Dont try to give fluids or medicine to the person experiencing the seizure until the seizure is completely finished and the person is fully alert again.
  • Don not try to restrain the jerking movements. Applying restraint could cause tears in the muscle or even break a bone, especially in elderly people may be fragile.
  • But do not try to prevent a patients from injuring himself by removing sharp/hard objects form his vicinity and cushion head with your hands.
  • After the seizure the person should be allowed to rest or sleep, if neccersary.
  • If the person undergoes a series of convulsions, with each successive one occuring before he or she has fully recovered consciousness, or a single seizure lasting longer than 10 minutes, you should immediately seek medical assitance.

13. How does alcohol affect my seizures?
Answer: Alcohol changes the blood levels of antiepileptic drugs and can cause seizures, especially during th period of withdrawal {6 to 48 hours after drinking}. one or two alcoholic beverges cause no meaningful changes in the blood levels of antiepileptic drugs, and rarely provokes withdrawal symptoms such as seizures. Limiting alcohol consumption can be difficult for same, especially young adults and those with a history of substance abuse, In these cases, it is better to avoid alcohol.

14. Can I have a baby in spite of being a epileptic ?
Answer: 90% of women with epilepsy will have perfectly normal and healthy childern. However, the risk for birth defects is double that of the general population {general population 2.5%, epilepsy population 6%}. The cause for the increased risk is realted to antiepileptic drugs and possibly genetic factors. The recommended treatment of epilepsy during pregnancy is with the lowest amount of antiepileptic drugs that will control the seizures, Most women need to discuss pregnancy with your physician ahead of time, feel comfortable with family planning decisions and be compliant with all aspects of care, prior, during and after pregnancy.

15. Can I drive ?
Answer: To drive, the individual must be free of seizures that impair consciousness or motor control for a certain peroid of time. Not all seizures restrict driving. For e.g, seizure that occur only during sleep or never impair consiousness or motor control should not interfere with driving. Driver privileges should be discussed on an individual basis with the physician.

16. I missed my antiepileptic medication this morning, what should I do ?
Answer: Missing one dose of antiepileptic medication is common. The plan to replace the missed dose depends on when the next dose is due. When a medication is taken once per day, just take the medication when the error is recognized. If recognized the next day, dont double up on the dose. when the medication is taken 2 to 4 times per day, an adjustment in the time sequence of dosing is needed.

17. If someone has a seizure, does that mean he or she suffers from epilepsy ?
Answer: Seizure is a change in behavioral state due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Given the right set of circumstances {e.g. below to the head, intoxication, high fever} anyone can experience a seizure in the presense of somr factors leading to physiological disturbance does not mean that it will ever happen after the factor has been resolved. When seizures recur without any obvious cause, then a person may be considered to have epilepsy. This has to be further confirmed with and EEG or a CT scan.

18. What is the difference between seizures and epilepsy ?
Answer: Seizures are a symptom of epilepsy. Epilepsy is the underlying tendency of the brain to produce sudden bursts of electrical energy that disrupt other brain functions. Having a single seizure does not necessarily mean a person has epilepsy.

19. Is epilepsy contagious ?
Answer: No, epilepsy is never contagious.

20. What is the beat way to deal with epilepsy?

  • Take your medicines regularly.
  • Avoid stress and have good sleep daily
  • And the most important thing is to change the attitude that you are an epileptic and can�t lead a normal life. Here is a lsit of a few famous personalities who did not let a minor thing like epilepsy in achieving their full potential and living life to its fullest.

Reference: A Pamphlet on Epilepsy

About Author

Sulabh Shrestha

Intern doctor and Medical Blogger Sulabh Shrestha


  • Thanks! This article was really helpful.

  • Thanks!

  • Simple and nice post for general people to understand

  • As simple and beautiful as can be.
    Nice article.
    Good for general population .
    Thanks for the post.

  • thank you very much… iv learned a lot… im a student nurse here in phil…

    • Thank you for the comment Patrick. Hope I can help you in future as well.

  • Thanks. You have done a very tough work.

    • Thank you Dr. Prahallad your readership and comments inspire me to keep on writing about new things. Thank you.

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