The brain contains numerous nerve cells which help in its normal functioning. Epilepsy or seizures occur when there is a disruption in the activity of the nerve cells in the brain. A neurological disorder of the CNS (Central Nervous System), epilepsy can affect all and sundry, irrespective of their age, sex and ethnicity. However, children and aged people (above 60 years) are more susceptible to the condition. A study suggests approximately 10 million people in India suffer from epilepsy.
Types of Epilepsy
Based on the activity of the brain that causes an epileptic attack, Epilepsy can be of two types - Focal or Generalized
Focal Epilepsy: An epileptic attack triggered by unusual activities restricted to a particular area of the brain.
- In some cases, focal epilepsy may result in unconsciousness. A person may also lose awareness and become unresponsive (keeps staring into space), a condition termed as Focal Dyscognitive Seizures. A person with this condition may behave strange, such as walking in circles, chewing or rubbing their hands.
- In another type of focal epilepsy known as Focal seizures without loss of consciousness, a person does not lose consciousness. In such cases, there may be sudden and involuntary jerking of the arms or the legs. There may also be dizziness or a tingling sensation.
Generalized Epilepsy: Here, the seizures or epilepsy result from unusual activities throughout the brain. Generalized epilepsy, may, in turn, be of the following subtypes
- Tonic seizures: This affects the muscles of the legs, arms, or the back, causing them to stiffen and tighten up.
- Atonic seizures: Here, a person may suddenly fall down due to loss of muscle control. The condition is also known as Drop Seizures.
- Absence seizures: Mostly affecting children, the affected person may lose awareness (temporary) and behave strangely such as staring into spacing, smacking their lips, or blinking their eyes continuously.
- Clonic seizures: They are characterized by sudden and continuous jerking movements of the arms, face, and neck muscles.
- Tonic-clonic seizures: Here, a person may suddenly lose consciousness. There are violent shaking and stiffening of the body. Some people may even be seen biting their tongue.
- Myoclonic seizures: In this arms, and legs of a person suddenly twitches and jerks.
What triggers an Epilepsy?
Epilepsy may be an outcome of the following factors
- Medical conditions such as stroke or even brain tumors may affect the normal activities of the brain, thereby resulting in epilepsy. Diseases such as Viral Encephalitis, AIDS or Meningitis act also act as a trigger, accelerating the chances of epilepsy.
- Developmental disorders such as Neurofibromatosis or Autism can also trigger epilepsy.
- In some cases, epilepsy may be a genetic predisposition. Thus, a person with a family history of epilepsy may suffer from the condition.
- Epilepsy may also be an outcome of a prenatal brain injury due to oxygen deficiency or an infection to the mother.
- People with dementia may also suffer from an epileptic attack.