Epilepsy as a consequence
What is Epilepsy
When we speak about "The gray matter of our brains” we mean the part of the central nervous system containing the cell bodies of the neurons (nerve cells). The outside of the brains is gray, the inside of the brains is white. Gray matter consists of a couple of billion brain cells that compose networks. The networks all have their own tasks associated with a function in the body, for example: seeing, hearing, language, smell, a specific movement etc. See the image below.
The picture is from this source
The cells of a network communicate with each other by electrical pulses. In case of epilepsy, there is a short circuit in a network or in multiple networks. Because of the differences in the network(s) in which a short occurs and its the specific function, epileptic seizures differ from each other.
An attack can cause a person to be absent for a short period of time or even become unconscious while he or she is making jerking movements. But it can also happen that the person smells something unusual or falls.
Epilepsy as a consequence of brain injury
Epilepsy, in general, is caused by several factors. Hereditary factors play a role, in combination with environmental factors. Epilepsy can also be the result of brain damage. In some cases, an epileptic attack may be the cause of brain injury. See the page about oxigen deficiency.
Epilepsy caused by brain injury is most common in people who have had a stroke / CVA. In 10% of these people it occurs with one or more attacks.
Epilepsy can also be caused by other factors:
- Traumatic brain injury,
- Brain tumors or metastases of a tumor in the brains,
- Infections of the brains, such as meningitis or encephalitis.
In the case of an epileptic seizure, a discharge in a region of the brains occurs. It depends on the region of the brains how the attack manifests itself (partial seizure).
- Some muscles or muscle groups are strained (motor symptoms),
- There may be sensory sensations of smell, taste, touch or in an unusual way of perceiving time and space,
- Autonomic reactions may occur, such as sweating, flushing, nausea or palpitations
If the epileptic disturbance in the area where emotions are controlled, people can behave aggressively as a result of an epileptic seizure. Other feelings such as joy, fear or hallucinations may also occur.
If both halves of the brain are involved in an epileptic seizure (generalized attack) than consciousness is usually affected (sometimes barely noticeable). In this case the person may begin to stare, legs and arms can shock (myo-clonic and clonic seizure) or muscles can tense up or freeze (tonic seizure). In case the muscles stiffen and start to shock this is called a tonic-clonic seizure.
If the person falls and the muscles become weak it is called an atonic attack or a fall-attack.
There are two main types of epileptic seizures:
- Partial (local or focal) seizures: seizures that begin from a particular area in the brains. Consciousness is sometimes intact, sometimes reduced and sometimes completely absent. Partial epilepsy is the most common form of epilepsy. It occurs in up to two thirds of patients. Almost everyone who gets epilepsy after the age of thirty has partial epilepsy.
- Generalized seizures: in this case both hemispheres are involved. In this case, there is always a disturbance of consciousness, that is that the patient is unconscious, or is not fully Approximately 6% of patients have generalized epilepsy.Partial (local or focal) seizures: seizures that begin from a particular area in the brains. Consciousness is sometimes intact, sometimes reduced and sometimes completely absent. Partial epilepsy is the most common form of epilepsy. It occurs in up to two thirds of patients. Almost everyone who gets epilepsy after the age of thirty has partial epilepsy.
Some people get a kind of announcement, just before they get an attack. This may take the form of a strange feeling in the stomach or seeing flashing lights or hearing strange noises.
This is referred to as an aura
Sometimes a person days in advance gets indications that an attack is "coming". This person has abdominal pain, is not feeling well or has a headache. In this case we speak of 'prodromal symptoms'.
Consequences for everyday life
Due to the fact that epilepsy occurs unexpectedly and temporarily takes away of people the autonomy over one's actions it can have major consequences for everyday life. For example, car driving with epilepsy is bound to legal rules. More information about living with epilepsy.
In many cases, it is possible to prevent seizures or reduce the likelihood of an attack by means of drugs. These drugs are called anticonvulsants. They are effective against certain types of attacks. About 75% of people with epilepsy have no seizures anymore because of the medication. If that is not the case, it may be that a surgical procedure produces result. For more information on treatment of epilepsy see the website of the Epilepsy Foundation.