Brain Disorders

Causes and symptoms of epilepsy

Living with a chronic condition can be incredibly challenging for the patient and their family as well. Chronic ailments have the ability to affect the quality of life the person leads and even prevents them from leading a normal life. One such chronic disorder that is characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures is epilepsy.  Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system in which the brain activity becomes abnormal and triggers seizures or periods of unusual sensations, behavior, and even loss of awareness at times.

Epilepsy is a health condition that can affect anyone irrespective of their sex, ethnic backgrounds, and age. It is characterized by sudden seizures and these seizure symptoms vary widely. Different people experience epilepsy differently. Some stare blankly into space during the seizure while others experience repeated twitching in their arms or legs.

Though 3.4 million people in the country are diagnosed with epilepsy, the exact cause of this condition remains unknown. However, there are certain factors that are believed to contribute to the onset of epilepsy. These are:

  • Genetic influence– The causes of epilepsy are not clear. Certain types of epilepsy, which are categorized by the type of seizure one experiences or the part of the brain that is affected, tend to run in the family. This is where genetic influence comes in. Research has indicated that some types of epilepsy are caused due to specific genes; however, in a majority of the population that has epilepsy, genes are only partially responsible for it. The person receives certain genes that can make the individual more susceptible to environmental conditions which usually trigger seizures.
  • Head trauma– Another possible cause of epilepsy is a brain injury. Head trauma that is caused by a traumatic injury or car accidents is known to cause epilepsy. This form of epilepsy that surfaces due to scarring of the brain after a brain injury is known as post-traumatic epilepsy.
  • Brain conditions– Certain brain conditions like brain tumors or strokes can damage the brain, which in turn, can cause epilepsy. In fact, stroke is considered to be a leading cause of epilepsy in adults who are older than 35 years of age.
  • Prenatal injury– When the baby is in the womb, they are quite sensitive to brain damage which can occur due to several reasons like poor nutrition, oxygen deficiencies, or if the mother is carrying an infection. This form of brain damage can result in cerebral palsy or epilepsy.
  • Infectious diseases– Certain infectious diseases such as AIDS, viral encephalitis, and meningitis are known to cause epilepsy. Epilepsy occurs in such cases as collateral damage of the primary health condition.
  • Developmental disorders– Developmental disorders like neurofibromatosis and autism are known to trigger epilepsy though how these conditions are linked remains unexplained.

Symptoms of epilepsy
As epilepsy is caused by abnormal activity in the brain, seizures can affect the processes the brain coordinates. The signs and symptoms of seizure include:

  • A staring spell
  • Temporary confusion
  • Psychic symptoms such as fear, deja vu, or anxiety
  • Uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs
  • Loss of consciousness or awareness

The seizures are divided into two categories, focal seizures and generalized seizures, each of which is categorized by different symptoms. The symptoms of epilepsy vary according to the type of seizure the individual experiences.