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Facts About Epilepsy - Seizures

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

facts-about-epilepsy-seizures

What is Epilepsy?

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. Epilepsy is a common central nervous system disorder. There is abnormal brain activity that causes seizures or a period of unusual behavior. There will be a loss of awareness sometimes. While anyone can develop epilepsy, young children and older adults tend to be the most common. It does affect males and females, all races, all ethnic backgrounds and all ages. Most seizures do not cause brain damage.

The Epilepsy Foundation tells us that there are 150,000 or (48 out of every 100,000) people that have at least one episode of epilepsy each year in the U.S. In 2015, about 3 million adults (age 18 and older) and 470,000 children (age 17 years or younger) had active epilepsy in the United States.

It is estimated that 50 million people are living with epilepsy worldwide. India has an estimated 50 million people with this disorder, and “a significant proportion of PWE do not receive appropriate treatment, leading to a large treatment gap.” About 15 million Europeans will have a seizure once in their lifetime. Epilepsy is not recognized as a brain disorder in some countries, so up to 40% may never receive treatment.

There are several types of epilepsy that have different symptoms and patterns.

There is often a stigma for people who suffer from seizures. I believe this is due to misunderstanding this disease. In addition, sometimes a person may have one seizure but not have the disease of epilepsy.

When I was in 5th grade we were walking out of school at the end of the day, and a girl I didn’t know fell on the ground seizing. I had never seen anyone with a seizure, and it was frightening. I know, sadly, that some students avoided her after that episode.

Epilepsy-Seizure Facts

Seizure symptoms can vary widely. Some people with epilepsy simply stare blankly for a few seconds during a seizure, while others repeatedly twitch their arms or legs. Having a single seizure doesn't mean you have epilepsy. At least two unprovoked seizures are generally required for an epilepsy diagnosis.

Febrile seizures may occur in a child between 6 months and 5 years. Brain tumors, hypoglycemia, sleep deprivation and even malnutrition can cause seizures. Dogs may also have seizures.

The International League Against Epilepsy (ILEA) is an organization that studies the disease of epilepsy. In 2017, they published classifications for epilepsies with levels that aid in the understanding of this disease.

Brain Waves With A Seizure

Brain Waves With A Seizure

Seizure Types

There are several seizure types, which fall into the focal or generalized seizures categories.The types of epilepsy include:

Focal seizures involve only one area of the brain, and they fall into two categories, including:

  1. Focal seizures without loss of consciousness may alter your emotions or simply change the way things feel, look, smell, sound or taste. Sometimes a person may experience deja vu. This type of seizure may result in involuntary jerking of one part of the body, such as a leg or arm. Tingling, flashing lights or dizziness may also be experienced.
  2. Focal seizures with impaired awareness involve a loss of consciousness or awareness. It may feel like you are living in a dream. The impaired awareness may cause you to stare into space and also not respond normally to your environment. Repetitive movements may occur, such as walking in circles or rubbing your hand.

Generalized seizures affecting the whole brain include six types that include:

  1. Absence seizures are usually found in children, and cause the child to stare into space. There may or may not be subtle body movements, such as smacking the lips or blinking the eyes. They typically last from 5-10 seconds, but may occur in clusters, up to 100 times in a day.
  2. Tonic Seizures cause your neck muscles to become stiff, and they can affect consciousness. They typically affect other muscles throughout the body, which will cause you to fall.
  3. Atonic seizures also cause a lack of muscle control, especially in the legs. They also causes a sudden collapse.
  4. Clonic seizures usually affect the face, neck and arms. They cause a rhythmic jerking in these muscles.
  5. Myoclonic seizures appear as sudden, brief jerks or twitches, which tend to affect the upper body, arms and legs.
  6. Tonic-clonic seizures (previously known as grand mal seizures) cause a very abrupt loss of consciousness and are the most dramatic type. Body shaking, stiffening and twitching occurs, and sometimes the loss of bladder control or tongue biting.

WHO: Epilepsy, Treat it, Defeat it

Symptoms

Epilepsy occurs when there is abnormal activity of the brain, and a seizure can affect anything that the brain coordinates. The symptoms may include:

  • Staring blankly
  • Confusion that is temporary
  • Uncontrolled, jerking movements of the extremities
  • Stiff muscles
  • Loss of consciousness or loss of awareness
  • Psychological symptoms, including anxiety, fear or deja vu
A still image of a generalized seizure

A still image of a generalized seizure

Treatments

Treatment with medications or sometimes surgery can control seizures for 70% of the people with epilepsy. Some people require lifelong treatment to control seizures, but for others, the seizures eventually go away. Some children with epilepsy may outgrow the condition with age.

There are medications specific to the seizure type. The FDA approved Cenobamate tablets in November, 2019 to treat partial-onset seizures in adults, which is for those patients that may have impaired consciousness or ones that lose consciousness entirely.

Epilepsy in some children can sometimes be controlled with a special diet when medication is not effective. Those people who have seizures that are difficult to control should see a neurologist.

The Difference between Seizures and Epilepsy

In Summary

Epilepsy is a common disease for which there is treatment most of the time. There are many types of epilepsy, which makes this a complicated topic. The causes vary and depend on the type of seizure. There are numerous ongoing medical studies for various types of epilepsy with advanced treatments being developed.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 11, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I can imagine pregnancy would created some problems for a patient with epilepsy. `I'm glad to hear your daughter's is under control. I am glad you liked the article.

I appreciate all your comments, Linda. Hope you are enjoying your new home.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on October 11, 2021:

Pamela, thank you for writing this article. People fear what they don't understand. My older daughter has epilepsy and so does a niece (both with grand mal seizures). Beth's is under control but my niece had difficulty when she was pregnant. The hormone shift and change in weight required adjustments in her medication and dosage.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 10, 2021:

Hi Bill,

It was frightening to be so young and see something happen to someone you don't understand. I am glad people are more aware these days. I'm glad you found the article informative.

I appreciate your comments. Have a great week!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 10, 2021:

I was thirteen when I saw a friend have an epileptic seizure. I didn't know he had that infliction, and it was terribly frightening to see the seizure. I remember he was made fun of it by the bullies in the area; word spreads quickly when you are "different" from others. Happily, we are more aware of it these days, and advancements in medicine have made it much more manageable. Thanks for the informative article, my friend, and Happy Sunday to you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 10, 2021:

Hi Miebakagh,

This is a complex topic. I spent a considerable amount of time doing research.

Thank you for your comments. Have a good week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 10, 2021:

HIiPeggy,

I am glad you found this article informative. I read in a couple of places that dogs can have seizures. That must have been a little upsetting during the bath.,

I appreciate your comments. Have a good week, Peggy!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on October 10, 2021:

I found the article very enlightening on this complex subject. Thanks.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 10, 2021:

This article is very informative, Pamela. I never realized that so many people experienced episodes of the different manifestations of a seizure outside of a diagnosis of epilepsy. One of our senior dogs had an episode of it once when I was bathing her.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 10, 2021:

Hi Rosina

,

I am glad you learned more about epilepcy. I was in 5th grade a long timre ago, so maybe people have learned to be more compassionate now. Your experience had a good positice outcome. You were in a university, so maybe that was better as students were older.

I appreciate your nice comments. I hope you have a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 10, 2021:

Hi Brenda,

It is quite scary when your are young and have no understanding to see someone with a seizure.

I am glad you now understand why you were tested. I think most people with good access to medical care are able to ise medications successfully.

Thank you so mucch for your comments. I hope you have a good week!

Rosina S Khan on October 10, 2021:

This is a very important article about epilepsy and seizures, Pamela. I came to know a lot about the topic through this article.

My experience of seizures occurred during my teaching career. Once after I had just finished lecturing, a student started making strange sounds in his mouth and then fell to the ground seizing. I was so surprised and never encountered anything like it. His classmates were very helpful and quickly brought a stretcher and carried him to the university doctor. After this event, it seemed to me that the class was closer to him, not aloof.

Thank you for this helpful and excellent article.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on October 10, 2021:

Pamela

I remember the first time I witnessed someone having a seizure and like you it was at school.

It was terrifying.

I didn't realize that epilepsy had so many different phases...like the one where you just stare or blink.

I was tested once to see if I was having seizures from mu brain tumor & I didn't understand why they would think that, but now I do. The staring & blinking.

I do know people who control this condition quite well with medication.

Great article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 10, 2021:

Hi Misbah,

I'm glad you shared your experience and I hope it never happens again. That is surely a dangerously high blood pressure. I would think the cause was more than black coffee. Fatigue can be part of the cause. You wil probably never know the cause for sure. There is no need to go to a doctor unless it happened again. I pray it dosen't.

There are many things that cause seizures.

Thank you for your generouis comments.

Much love and blessings for you, Misbah.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 10, 2021:

Hi Liz,

I am glad you foumd the article informative. This can be a difficult diseaase.

Thank you for your comments. Have a good week!

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Rebels. on October 10, 2021:

Pamela, thank you so much for sharing this fascinating and educational article. This is a very helpful article. Once in my life, I had experience a severe seizure. In my kitchen, I was peeling sweet potatoes near the stove. I'm not sure when I fell down. I was holding a knife at the moment. My gums were bleeding profusely when I awoke, and my blood pressure had risen to 170/115 (I don't remember the figure exactly, but it was pretty high). That was the first and only time I'd ever had anything like it, and it was around 4 years ago. I was just 25. We were shifting our home at the time, and I had black coffee in the evening. I guess it reacted, and maybe reacted because of lack of sleep and energy. I don’t know. I never visited a doctor regarding this because I never experienced any problem like this afterwards but the one I experienced was horrible.

Sorry for making it long but I wanted to share my experience with you. I hope you are doing well. Happy Sunday.

Sending Blessings and Love to you!

Liz Westwood from UK on October 10, 2021:

This is a very well-presented and informative article. I have known friends with epilepsy. As you say, symptoms vary greatly, as does their severity.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 10, 2021:

Hi John,

I am glad you found this article interesting. I didn't even realize there were so many types, as I primarily worked in the hospitals, and we see few people admitted for epilepsy.

I appreciate your comments, and all of your help. I hope you have a good week.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 10, 2021:

A very interesting article, Pamela. I have known a couple of people with epilepsy but didn’t realise there were that many different types of seizures.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 10, 2021:

Hi Flourish,

Driving when you have been diagnosed with epilepsy is sure dangerous.

We do have a culture of drinking. I did read alcoholics were sometimes undernourished and low vitamins 12 and others could cause a seizure. This is the effect of that unhealthy lifestyle. The combination of drugs and alcohol can be a cause also.

I appreciate your comments. Have a good day!

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 10, 2021:

Thank you for writing this. A lady I used to babysit for when I was a teen had epilepsy and couldn’t drive because of it but drove anyway. She was otherwise healthy and normal.

Kinda related … As an adult I often wonder about the drinking of alcohol and taking a regular course of prescription drugs for a chronic condition (like a neurological condition). They often warn against it but we have such a culture of drinking.

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