Epilepsy - Overview

Epilepsy is a condition that causes disruption within the brain and causes individual to have “fits”. Regardless of the type of seizure, living with epilepsy can affect a person’s life in many ways.

This is abnormal and excessive electrical activity in the brain. This presents in the form of changes in awareness, behavior, and/or abnormal movements. This activity usually lasts only a few seconds to minutes.


Symptoms in epilepsy can be divided into 3 groups: seizure types, seizure triggers and post seizure symptoms.

Seizure types — One of the most common seizure types is a convulsion. With this type of seizure, a person may stiffen and have jerking movements throughout the entire body. These are called “Grand mal” seizures. Other seizure types are less dramatic. Shaking movements may be isolated to one arm or part of the face. On the other hand, it could just be suddenly stop responding and stare for a few seconds, sometimes with chewing motions or smacking  of the lips.
Seizures may also cause "sensations" that only the person feels. An example of this is a type of seizure that causes stomach discomfort, fear, or an unpleasant smell. Such feelings are referred to as auras. A person usually experiences the same symptoms with each aura. Sometimes, an aura comes just before convulsions start.

Seizure triggers — A very small group of people have seizure triggers, such a specific emotions, intense exercise, loud music, or flashing lights. When these triggers happen, a seizure usually follows.

Post seizure symptoms (also known as postictal state) - This period right after a seizure comes with certain symptoms. For example, you may have some behavioral changes or mild to severe weakness in a hand, arm, or leg. Additionally, people have difficulty speaking or experience some loss of vision or other types of sensory loss. These can be important in figuring out what type of seizure and which part of the brain has been affected during the seizure.

It is important to take your medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you have been on treatment for a while, the number of seizures that you have can decrease significantly. This might tempt you to stop taking your medication, particularly if you are struggling with some of the side effects. You should never stop your medication, or decrease the dose, without talking to your doctor first.


Written by Dr Ruusa Shivute | Health Window

Reference: Thijs RD, Surges R, O'Brien TJ, Sander JW. Epilepsy in adults. Lancet. 2019 Feb 16;393(10172):689-701

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