Epilepsy is a chronic brain disorder that affects people all over the world.
It is characterized by seizures of brief episodes with involuntary movements that can partially affect the body (partial seizures) or in its entirety (generalized seizures) and in certain cases are accompanied by loss of consciousness and sphincter control.
The attacks characteristics are variable and depend on the area of the brain in which the disorder begins, as well as its propagation. Transient symptoms, such as absences or loss of consciousness and disorders of movement and senses (in particular vision, hearing, and taste), mood, or other cognitive functions may occur.
In most cases, a person with epilepsy tends to have the same type of seizure every time, so the symptoms will be similar from episode to episode. The physicians generally classify seizures as focal or generalized, based on how abnormal brain activity begins.
Certain factors can increase your risk of epilepsy:
- Age: The onset of epilepsy is more common in early childhood and after age 60, but the condition can occur at any age.
- Family history
- Head injuries
- Stroke and other vascular diseases
- Dementia may increase the risk of epilepsy in the elderly
- Brain infections such as meningitis, which cause inflammation in the brain or spinal cord, may also increase your risk
- Seizures in childhood
The most common type of epilepsy, which affects 6 out of 10 people, is idiopathic epilepsy, that is, that does not have an identifiable cause. Epilepsy with known causes is called secondary or symptomatic epilepsy. These causes may include:
- Congenital anomalies and perinatal lesions.
- Tumors and other occupants of space.
- Degenerative disorders: Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative disorders are the cause of seizures.
- Infectious diseases: Should be considered in all age groups as potentially reversible causes of seizures.
In most patients with seizures of a single type, satisfactory control with a single anticonvulsant drug can be achieved. Treatment with two drugs may further reduce the frequency or severity of seizures, but usually only at the expense of increased toxicity.
Electroencephalography (EEG) may support the clinical diagnosis of epilepsy, providing a guide for prognosis and helping to classify seizure disorder. Classification of the disorder is important in determining the most appropriate anticonvulsant drug to begin treatment with. In patients with epilepsy, drug therapy is prescribed in order to prevent further attacks and is generally continued until there have been no seizures for at least 2 years.