All about Epilepsy aka Seizure Disorder

At Tamahar, we keep organizing sessions with parents as well as teachers to educate them on the generic medical issues as well as typical symptoms seen in children with brain damage.

One such session was taken by Mrs Vaishali Pai on Epilepsy, explaining us what it exactly is and how can one identify whether the fits/jerks are epileptic or not. Here’s a brief transcript of the discussion. Hope this helps you and answers your questions! In case you want to know more, write to us on facebook or email on shivani.tamahar@gmail.com.

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is termed as weakness in nerves, where the wiring of nerves is interconnected. This is a disorder characterized by recurring seizures(Also known as Seizure disorder).

A seizure is a brief, temporary disturbance in(or abnormal) the electrical activity in the brain. Seizure is a symptom of Epilepsy, not a cause. Anything that injures brain can cause seizures.

Anyone can get epilepsy at anytime. 50% of epileptic patients develop seizures by the age of 25. About 1% of population develops Epilepsy and the risk is higher in individuals with Mental Retardation, Alzheimer’s or Those who have had a stroke.

How is it caused?

Brain is the source of Epilepsy. For all functions—like feeling, seeing, thinking etc – moving muscles depend on the electrical signals passed between nerve cells in the brain. A seizure occurs when too many nerve cells in the brain “fire” too quickly causing an “electrical storm”.

Seizures can also be seen in the cases of drug or alcohol abuse, where extreme dehydration happens sometimes. Apart from that Hypoglycemia (in diabetes) can also lead to seizure-like symptoms like giddiness, shivering of hands and legs. Neither of these seizures is epileptic.

In 70% of cases, exact cause of seizures remain unknown. In the rest 30%, most common causes are:

  1. Head Trauma
  2. Brain Tumour and Stroke
  3. Infections of Brain tissue
  4. Lead Poisoning
  5. Hereditary
  6. Prenatal disturbance of Brain development
  7. Hypoxia at birth
  8. Fever / Infection
  9. Drug/alcohol withdrawal
  10. Poisoning/Overdose
  11. Hypoglycemia
  12. Brain neoplasms
  13. Psychiatric disorders
  14. Eclampsia
  15. Hypocalcemia

What are its typical symptoms?

In epilepsy, usually the seizures are recurring. Symptoms of  epileptic seizures are :

  1. Periods of blackout or confused memory
  2. Occasional “fainting spells”
  3. Episodes of blank staring, especially among children
  4. Sudden falls for no apparent reason
  5. Episodes of blinking or chewing at inappropriate times
  6. A convulsion with or without fever
  7. Clusters of swift jerking movements in babies.

What are the different kinds of seizures?

There are different type of seziures:

  1. Generalized/ Grand Tonic seizure :  Involves the whole brain and loss of consciousness. This has 2 subtypes –
    • Absence –> Brief loss of consciousness
    • Tonic /Clonic –> Rhythmic jerking of muscles
  2. Partial/Focal Seizure- Involves only part of the brain (focussed/focal), may or may not include loss of consciousness, symptoms relate to affected part of brain. This has 2 subtypes –
    • Simple partial
    • Complex partial
  3. Hysterical – As the name suggest, this type of seizure is a kind of hysteria. It usually happens in front of an audience/group of people. The body movements of the personal are asymmetrical or not purposeful. He/she does not fall down, but hits head on a surface and bites tongue. He/she recalls things said or done during the seizure. Incontinence is rare though. Such incidents are more likely to happen after a interpersonal stress.

Triggers of seizures

  • Missed medication is usually the #1 reason
  • Stress/anxiety
  • Hormonal changes
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of sleep/extreme fatigue
  • Photosensitivity
  • Drug/alcohol abuse; drug interactions

Do’s and Don’ts of dealing with seizures

Proper treatment is the only treatment of Epilepsy. However, if you are in a situation where you cannot get immediate medical help and a seizure happens, follow these general guidelines to avoid it from getting really bad.

  1. Some people drool during seizures, hence all the saliva comes out instead of going inside the body. This may happen due to the position the person is in. Ensure that this does not happen and the person swallows the saliva. Lack of saliva can potentially cause  higher density of seizures. Provide them with a glass of juice or water to help with this.

2. Hypoglycemia/starving also tends to induce Seizures. When this happens, just tell               the person to lie down on one side.

3. When a patient is in the middle of a seizure –

  • Do NOT restrain
  • Do NOT put anything in mouth

4.  Once the seizure has stopped

  • Open/Clear/Maintain airway
  • Roll patient onto side protecting head

Treatment

  1. Medication
  2. Surgery when trigger zones can be localized
  3. Other: Vagal stimulation for partial seizures when medicines don’t work
  4. Life style modifications, specially in children and adolescents
  5. Counseling
  6. In case of Status Epilepticus –
  • A condition when consciousness does not return between seizures for more than 30 min. This state may be life-threatening with the development of pyrexia, deepening coma, circulatory collapse. Death occurs in 5-10%. Status epilepticus may occur with frontal lobe lesions (incl. strokes), following head injury, on reducing drug therapy or non compliance with alcohol withdrawal,drug intoxication, metabolic disturbances or during pregnancy.   Take the patient to a hospital asap.

Other types of jerks

Jerks during sleep –  These are not epileptic. Jerks while sleeping is an indication of brain hyper-activity.

Jerks in children while bathing – Non-epileptic. No need to worry as such jerks are just  brain nerve wiring quickly to respond to the temparature of water.

 

Information put together by – Deepthi S, Tamahar Staff

 

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Tamahar

We are a Non-profit organization working with children with special needs and/or brain damage related disabilities. We believe in inclusion and empathy for the children as well as their families. Apart from intervention programmes and therapy, we also provide support service to parents, like support groups and respite care. This blog puts forth our perspective about what we do, how it is changing lives and how it only takes a little bit of positivity to turn things around.

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