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Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that occurs when the electrical signals in the brain misfire, causing temporary miscommunication between nerve cells. This results in temporary abnormal brain function and seizures. Symptoms may occur occasionally and be temporary. Symptoms are acute and stop on their own, though they tend to recur. The incidence of epilepsy in Thailand is about 1% of the population or approximately 700,000 people suffering from epilepsy.

Symptoms of Epilepsy
Seizures are the main symptom of epilepsy. Symptoms differ from person to person and according to the type of seizure. There are two main types of seizures:
  1. Generalized seizures occur when the whole brain is affected by the abnormal electrical disturbance. The patient may not have any visible abnormalities in the brain. It is believed that genetics play a part. There are many symptoms depending on the types of generalized seizures such as tense or rigid muscles, jerking, staring into space, loss of muscle tone, sudden collapse. Most patients will lose consciousness immediately. The body and limbs will stiffen. During a generalized seizure, the patient may stop breathing for a short period, turn blue, bite their tongue, lose control of their bladder, and then lose consciousness. When they wake up, they may experience body pain, fatique, or headache. Some unconscious patients may have a repeat seizure. Some younger patients may stare into space for a few seconds without jerking of their body or loss of consciousness.
  2. Partial seizures/focal seizures take place when abnormal electrical activity occurs in one limited area of the brain. Symptoms will vary according to where the problem originates in the brain, but may include:
  • Jerking of the face, corner of the mouth, legs or arms.
  • Feeling a sensation of “pins and needles” or occasional numbness of the arms and legs.
  • Seeing bright lights or hallucinations.
  • Experiencing strange tastes or hearing noises that are not actually there.
  • Symptoms of the autonomic nervous system, such as abdominal pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, and sweating.
Some patients may have partial seizures and then spread to cause generalized seizures.
 
Symptoms Similar to Epilepsy
  1. Fainting or loss of consciousness
  2. Signs of paralysis
  3. Low blood sugar
Epilepsy can be caused by different conditions that affect a person’s brain. Causes of epilepsy in patients of different ages tend to vary.
  1. In newborns, epilepsy may be caused by injury from birth.
  2. In children, epilepsy may be caused by high fever or encephalitis or meningitis.
  3. In teenagers and middle-aged adults, epilepsy may be genetic or caused by trauma, parasites in the brain or abnormalities of the blood vessels.
  4. In the elderly, epilepsy may be caused by stroke or brain tumor.
In a number of patients, the cause of epilepsy is unknown, even after undergoing several specialized tests.
 
 
When a patient experiencing seizures comes to see a doctor, the doctor will obtain a thorough medical history and carry out a physical examination to confirm the occurrence of seizures and look for their cause. The doctor may also order blood tests, electroencephalography (EEG) and in some cases, a computed tomography (CT) scan. Approximately 20 to 40 percent of patients with epilepsy have normal electroencephalography (EEGs) and even more patients may not show any abnormalities with the computed tomography (CT) scan. A specialist will determine the appropriate tests for each patient.
 
  1. Treating the cause, such as using medication for parasites and surgery for tumors or abnormal blood vessels.
  2. Treating the seizures with medication; the doctor will determine the dosage and duration of the medication, and some patients may have to take medications all their lives.
  1. You should take your antiepileptic drugs continuously for three to five years.
  2. Avoid situations or actions that can raise your chances of having a seizure, such as lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, strenuous activity, or missing a dose of medication.
  3. Avoid dangerous activities, such as driving, swimming, working with heavy machinery, climbing at high altitudes, etc.
  4. You can live your life normally. Exercise regularly, but do not overdo it, and maintain good physical and mental health.
  5. See your doctor regularly as scheduled to monitor your symptoms and any side effects of the medication.
Epilepsy do not damage the brain, but can affect memory temporarily. Please remember that epilepsy can be managed and even prevented with medication and by following the doctor’s recommendations carefully.
 

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